Aaron Becker

Though author and illustrator Aaron Becker now lives in Amherst with his wife, daughter, and cat, he hasn’t always stayed in one place. Like the main character in his book Journey (which received a Caldecott Honor in 2014), Aaron has traveled far. He moved far from his home of Baltimore, Maryland all the way to California, where he went to college and worked for the tech industry. He has also visited many places beyond the United States, like Sweden, Japan, and East Africa.* His stories allow children to take journeys, too, by using their imaginations. Have you ever been on a journey? Perhaps one in your own backyard?

Aaron’s book The Tree and the River, is about watching a place change over time. Though the book is not about Amherst, he thinks about it when he goes on bike rides. During the pandemic he saw the same views change with the seasons, and he thinks fondly of Rattlesnake Knob and the Robert Frost Trail, where he did some early sketches for the book. Click on Clip 1 below to listen to Aaron talk about this connection.

Like other authors on this tour, Aaron worked in the film industry. Before writing children’s books full time, he worked as an artist for companies like Lucasfilm, Disney, and Pixar, bringing life to movies like The Polar Express.** He says that growing up, he loved the Apollo space missions, and was fascinated by the idea of the world beyond our planet, which meant he was a great person to tell stories for these fantastical films.*** Have you ever told stories or drawn pictures imagining other worlds?

Aaron’s books, many of which are wordless, give open-ended storytelling opportunities to readers of all ages. To him, reading is about more than just stories. When adults read to children, it is an opportunity for intergenerational connection and closeness. As a child, Aaron remembers making up his own stories from the illustrations in the books his parents read to him. The details that stood out to him the most were visual, not always the plot points of the story. He gives readers of all ages the chance to focus on a narrative that speaks to them. In the Journey trilogy, many young children follow the purple bird, while older children tend to follow the child character, and caregivers tend to identify with the father character (Clip 2). The images he creates encourage readers to slow down and take in the world–both on the page and around them. When you look around you right now, what are three things you see?

*The Odyssey Bookshop. “Aaron Becker Books,” 2018. https://www.odysseybks.com/aaron-becker-books.
**Danielson, Jules, and Aaron Becker. “Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Aaron Becker.” Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (blog). Accessed December 4, 2023. http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=3255.
***Becker, Aaron. “Bio.” Personal. Aaron Becker, 2023. https://www.storybreathing.com.



Clip 1: Aaron talks about the Pioneer Valley
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Clip 2: Aaron talks about characters in his books
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