An Interview With Aaron Becker
Today’s interview with Aaron Becker, author and illustrator of JOURNEY (Candlewick Press, $15.99, Ages 4-8), comes to us courtesy of Hilary Taber and just before the naming of the 2014 Caldecott winner and honors announcement later today.
NOTE: At the time of posting we did not know that JOURNEY was named a 2014 Caldecott Honor Book. Congratulations to Aaron Becker!
Treat yourself and your children to one of 2013’s most talked about picture books, Aaron Becker’s JOURNEY. Though wordless, this colorful tale speaks to its readers in so many different ways, a big part of why JOURNEY will continue to bring immense pleasure to so many for years to come. Find out about Aaron Becker here with Hilary’s insightful interview.
Hilary Taber: Thank you for this interview, and thank you so much for the book as well. It’s gorgeous, so beautifully and wonderfully illustrated. My family has enjoyed it so much.
Aaron Becker: Thank you.
Hilary Taber: Congrats, too, on all the starred reviews! Horn Book Best of 2013, a New York Times Notable Children’s Book, so many accolades for JOURNEY. It must have been so fun to get those, and very affirming.
Aaron Becker: Yeah, it is and has been an amazing response. Like nothing I anticipated or was really imagining.
HT: Was your family delighted?
AB: Well, for sure. Totally, yeah … I mean, that’s something I always wanted to do … a children’s book, and to get to do one is delighting enough. And then people respond to it in ways I wouldn’t have even anticipated. It’s just very exciting.
HT: So, you have always wanted to write a children’s book or illustrate one?
AB: Oh, yeah. When I was a kid I made my own books … I wrote my own stories and drew pictures … it was one of my hobbies. This is my first book and I’m almost forty … there was a career in the middle there. I spent about a decade working as an illustrator on motion pictures.
HT: Do you feel that your career in movies helped you as a picture book illustrator?
AB: It sure does. Certainly there’s the technical side of just learning the craft of telling stories through pictures. We do that in film and in books. So, there’s just a lot of technical stuff I learned – composition, how to lead the reader’s eye, where you want them to go – but it’s a different craft as well. So, there’s some crossover for sure.
HT: I have some familiarity through my family with film production. I read that you refer to the picture book as having sets in it. Are the main characters like actors?
AB: I know, I caught myself using that word (sets), I noticed that too. It’s how I think, only right now I’m working on the third … there are three Journey books … I do think in terms of film. In some ways I think that if films were easier to make, less capital intensive, and less time intensive, I’d be making short films, not books. The nice thing about a book is that the scope of the project can be taken on by one person … it’s easier for me to be just like, “Okay, I’ll work with an editor – you know, with an agent.”
HT: Do you feel that you had people in your past, family or mentors, or somebody that was very key or crucial to you becoming an illustrator today?
AB: It’s easy for me to think in terms of books I like, but my parents definitely were important. Especially my mom, she was very focused on feeding my interests. She bought me a pad of paper, she bought me markers, and she made sure I had trips to the library to get out my drawing books and stuff. So, I was encouraged, but I wouldn’t say there was anyone around me doing this kind of work. It was my own interest for sure.
HT: It was your own journey.
AB: Yes, it was absolutely my journey. I started working on this book just after my daughter was born, and I had lost my job with the film company … I had always wanted to do this children’s book thing, a now or never kind of feeling, all my cards on the table, just a “Hail Mary pass.” It definitely felt like a journey, especially because it took so long for the book to come out. You know, it was about a three year process from inception to publication, which actually isn’t long for a book. It seemed like forever.