The Journey Trilogy

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by Aaron Becker (box set to be released November 7, 2017, Candlewick Press)

I’m so excited to bring you this glimmer of good news today. Aaron Becker’s stunning wordless trilogy is being released as a box set by Candlewick just in time for the warm winter holidays, or any time your soul needs a boost.

Here’s a look at the magic.

I asked Aaron a little bit about his incredible past few years in publishing. Here he is!

So, how does it feel to know there’s a box set for the Journey Trilogy?

I am more than thrilled! I’ve always loved this sort of thing in the series that I follow, but I never imagined when I wrote Journey that it would grow into something like this. It’s such an honor and I’m so excited to see it come together.

Had you always planned a trilogy?

When I was editing Journey, the one thing I didn’t have room for was a resolution for the girl’s initial (and significant) disconnect with her family. Instead, she finds a way out of her loneliness through her imagination and the adventures and friends she makes along the way. This felt closer to life to me; that the things we desire deep down don’t always pan out the way we might hope.

At the same time there was this nagging question when the layouts were finished – What about the girl’s family? Will she ever be seen by them? Well before Journey published (as you know, it’s a long process from completion of artwork to final publication) I talked to my editor at Candlewick (Mary Lee Donovan) about extending the story into a trilogy to help finish the larger arc of the girl’s journey. At that point, I wrote out a synopsis of the final two books. It was important to me that the story not turn into an ongoing series, but end as a succinct story with three purposeful acts, where Quest delves us deeper into the worlds of Journey and Return comes full circle to resolve the girl’s initial rift.

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Journey was your debut and landed in the book-world like a meteor. Was it hard to follow up on that kind of success?

Luckily I avoided any of that pressure – the paintings for Quest were finished by the time Journey published! Return was harder to figure out, but mostly because the story needed to work both as a stand alone story and a book end to the trilogy – in 40 wordless pages!

Your book trailers are amazing. How do they get made?

Thanks! I used to work in the film industry, so when the time came to promote Journey, I took what I knew of animation and film making and put it to use. It’s a really fun part of the process for me, and I wanted to do something special to celebrate the release of the box set that was different than my animations from the trilogy. I filmed the lanterns and books in our back yard with some fancy new camera equipment. It was a blast, though waiting for the perfect sunset took some patience!

For the music in all of my trailers, I work with Jacob Montague, a composer from the band Branches. Jacob takes my temp track and scores original music based on the timing of the edit. Books are a relatively solitary process, so it’s nice to have the chance for some collaboration.

Now that the trilogy is complete and the box set is coming out, do you have plans ever to go back to the worlds from Journey?

I do have an idea about the girl’s father when he was a boy. It’s the back story of it all that explains the crayons and the mythology of the kingdom. Actually, if you look carefully, a lot of it is already there on the cave painting in Return. I think I prefer keeping it there instead of elaborating too literally for the reader. There’s such a large part of these stories that belong to the readers themselves and I’d hate to take that away by explaining it too much!

I’ll have to take a look at that cave myself! So what’s next?

I have an entirely new wordless book coming out in Spring of 2018, A Stone for Sascha. It’s hard to explain in words how lucky I feel to be doing this job of telling my own stories. Now if only I had more time! I have so many I want to tell.

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Return + a video premiere and visit from Aaron Becker

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by Aaron Becker (Candlewick, 2016)

It’s an honor today to welcome Aaron Becker to this space. He’s here to talk about the close to his sweeping trilogy, the design of Return, and to premiere a beautiful short film about its creation.

Take a look. Be inspired.

And here’s Aaron:

One of my favorite parts of making books is figuring out the final bits of design for the dust jacket, the endpapers, and the book’s cover. Even when I pitched Journey years ago, I decided to build a cloth-bound, hand-stitched dummy. I wanted to make sure that if we did get an offer, if would be from a publisher that was serious about the details of book making!

In Return, I needed the design of the book to support what I had set out to do. For one, this third part of the trilogy needed to stand on its own, apart from the story it was ending. At the same time, Return needed to pay homage to the book’s predecessors and immediately feel a bit more weighty. After all, this was the final act.

The cover had to evoke something from the trilogy but also speak to the fact that we were no longer in the realm of the young child. In Return the girl has grown up a bit and its story brings up more pressing questions: What are the limits to the imagination? When is it time to grow up? And can we hold on to wonder when we chose to move on from our escapist fantasies? Clearly, I was dealing with some bigger themes here, and so I knew the jacket illustration had to reflect this. We see the girl running back into the lantern forest from Journey, but now the mood is noticeably darker and more mysterious. The lanterns glow red instead of the comforting blues from Journey. And there’s an urgency to her movement – she’s no longer just passively observing the world around her.

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The embossed design for the cover for each book was also something I carefully considered. I had to match the spirit of the book in one image. For Return, I chose the symbol of the kite – this is, after all, the visual link between the girl and her father; a symbol not only of the rift between them that starts out the trilogy, but of the connection they eventually find by the stories’ end. In wordless books, these visual symbols take on even more meaning than a book with words.

These symbols have to carry the themes and ideas of the story without the support of the written word, and to this end, you’ll also notice on the back of the jacket the girl’s crown – a symbol of her attachment to the imaginary realm – now sitting at the bottom of the sea as a relic of an adventure that has run its course.

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And lastly, we come to the endpapers. When I’ve presented the story of Return to children and adults alike, this is the part of the presentation when I start to get choked up. (In the endpapers of all places!) And though I won’t spell it out for you here, if you look closely you might just see something significant within the differences between the front and back ends papers.

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I believe it’s our duty when making children’s books to make them with care. They are objects that we share with our children that can have lasting effects on their lives. I for one, as an author and illustrator, don’t take their creation lightly. My hope is that some of this attention to detail will make the difference, even if on a subconscious level, for a child as they begin to build a connection to the stories that move them.
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