Recently I read the brilliant RETURN by Aaron Becker with my class. The children hadn’t read the first two stories in the JOURNEY trilogy and I wanted to see what they could do with the text knowing they had no background knowledge of the story arc. I used the text as a springboard for writing (after stealing the idea from a colleague- Thanks, Rachel) and was amazed at the power the wordless book gave to my students’ creativity. I have read wordless picture books many times before but this was the first time I had used one in this way.
Where did the red door come from? Why did the man go through the red door? Who had left the red ball behind? What was he looking for? Why doesn’t the girl want to come home? Is the bird special? What relationship does the girl have to the boy?
All these questions were floating in the air as we were reading the book. Once we finished reading, we went back and read it again and again. The children wanted me to go back to particular pages, so that they could put the clues together. Days after we read the text for the first time, the kiddos were still finding little signs and putting pieces of the puzzle together.
After our lengthy discussions, brainstorms, enactments, and partner chats, I gave the book over to them and invited them to compose their own narrative inspired by the book. Many of the children chose to write a narrative based on their own interpretation of the story and because they hadn’t read the other texts or knew anything about the trilogy, it allowed them to shape their interpretation solely on what they saw, heard and felt from the illustrations. There were no preconceived ideas about what the characters had to be which gave them total freedom to compose what they wanted to. How they presented their narrative was also up to them- many created comics and some wanted to write scripts.
Of course, the children are now desperate to read the first two books in the series and asking when the next one comes out. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that it was a trilogy! (EDIT: We read Journey today and they were bursting with curiosity over every page. When I got to the end and they begged me to read Quest, I put the books down and said “Not until tomorrow!” The screams and wails must have been heard all over the school. LOVE LOVE LOVE!
Thank you for creating such beautiful pieces of art that inspire my kids and me, Aaron Becker. I’m pretty sure the Journey trilogy will be voted as one of our most popular books/series of the year.