Young and old readers alike will rejoice in the publication of Return, the final volume of Aaron Becker’s trilogy of award-winning wordless picture books. As with Journey and Quest, the series’ ongoing premise continues, as a lonely, bored young heroine draws a door on her bedroom wall with her magic red crayon, escaping into a realm of immense castles populated by a familiar friendly king, a boy with a magic purple crayon and, alas, ominous soldiers giving chase.
What’s new is that this time the girl’s father follows his daughter through her magic door. An artist or architect, he’s been holed up in his upstairs home studio, seemingly frustrated at his drafting table and ignoring his child. A small rounded door rests near a bookcase―likely an entry into imaginary realms that he’s unable to access.
By the time this bearded, booted dad chases after his daughter, she’s not exactly thrilled to see him. All that changes, however, when soldiers attack the king, leading the girl and father to narrowly escape aboard a magical flying creature and then a magic submarine, eventually landing in a cave filled with prehistoric paintings. These paintings provide clues for dad and daughter to collaborate to defeat their attackers in an epic, colorful battle.
Becker’s watercolor, pen and ink illustrations highlight the importance of color, contrasting beige scenes in the family home with bold, brilliant bursts of gold, blue, purple and red in the otherworldly realm. As always, Becker’s imaginary worlds are visual feasts, intricate enough to invite repeated visits from fans of all ages. In contrast, his characters’ faces are purposely plain, inviting readers to assign their own interpretations.
The final illustration is lovely, showing a return to reality, but a reality suggesting that dad and daughter continue to enjoy their newfound magic. Similarly, Return is a crowning capstone to a special trilogy that parents and children will want to share time and time again. It is a marvelous yet beautifully quiet commentary on so many important things: relationships, imagination, ingenuity and creativity.