Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Return Book Poster Image
Wondrous finale to fantastical wordless trilogy.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Introduction to fantasy elements like a griffin. Intro to concept of submarine. Cave drawings that resemble those from Lascaux, France, figure significantly and can be paired with information about real Paleolithic cave drawings.

Positive Messages

When you're bored or others can't play with you, you can use your imagination to create your own adventures. Art is transporting; when you draw things, you can inhabit them in your imagination. When you encounter obstacles or danger, you can figure out ways to escape them. Strong bonds are created when dads participate in their kids' lives.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Young girl protagonist is active, imaginative, and brave. She and the others wield crayons and like to draw. The team of heroes thinks of creative ways to imagine their way around obstacles or out of danger. The father, absent and distracted in previous books, finally follows his daughter on her adventure and participates in it, strengthening their bond.

Violence & Scariness

The threat from the pursuers seems real and may be frightening to very young kids. They attack with swords and have a hand-cranked contraption that sucks in and destroys the colorful things our heroes have drawn. When it sucks in the griffin, we see feathers flying as if the griffin's been ground up, and the girl and her father free-fall through the sky.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Return is the third and final book in Aaron Becker's fantastical wordless trilogy that began with Journey (a Caldecott Honor Book) and Quest. When a young girl can't catch the attention of her busy dad, she uses her red crayon to draw her own adventure, traveling to a wildly beautiful yet dangerous kingdom. She teams up with old pals from the previous books and, this time, with her dad to fight the villains who aim to imprison them and all the world's colors. The art is rich and wondrous, and readers can scour the pages for detail to help them follow and fill in the story. A colorful celebration of imagination, art, and adventure.

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What's the story?

In RETURN, the young girl we met in the previous two books again tries to catch the attention of her artist dad working at his drafting table, hoping they'll fly her red kite. But again, he's too distracted, so she uses her red crayon to draw the door in her room that opens to her magical kingdom. This time, the dad follows. A boat awaits him and takes him to meet the young boy and king who've been her fellow adventurers. But when the king is captured by the villains, the girl and father together use the crayon to draw a submarine that takes them to an underground cave with ancient cave paintings that recount the past stories and point the way to the story's solution. Girl and dad draw a trap for the villains, freeing them to return to their city life where they at last fly her red kite.

Is it any good?

Art and imagination can transport us, and so can this beautiful picture book, third in a wordless trilogy that takes its heroine on a magical adventure and carries the reader along for the ride. A girl and her friends create their own adventures with crayons, and the world they imagine is beautiful but dangerous, so they draw their way out of harm by creating a griffin and a submarine to help them escape their pursuers. Though the book can stand on its own, it features the same players we've met before and the same threat, which is at last satisfyingly resolved, so it may be most fun and meaningful when paired with the previous two books.

With his mesmerizing moonlit kingdom by the sea, author-illustrator Aaron Becker has created a world kids will want to return to again and again, and readers' imaginations will take flight as surely as if they're riding on the back of the purple griffin. This wordless page-turner is packed with action and relates a worthy moral: That our imaginations can deliver us.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about wordless stories. Why do you think this artist chose to tell this story without words? Without text, how do you know what's happening? Find the details on each page that move the story forward.

  • If you were being chased by villains, what would you draw to help you escape?

  • Find pictures online of the ancient Lascaux cave paintings that date from the Paleolithic era. How are these cave paintings similar? How are they different?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love picture books and wordless stories

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