by MacLachlan, Patricia. (Delacorte, 1991 ISBN 0 385 30437 7) Novel. Grades 4+.
This book was reviewed by Carol Otis Hurst in Teaching K-8 Magazine.
Journey was eleven when his mother left him and his sister, Cat, with their grandparents and disappeared. She was restless, they said, and couldn't stay. Journey is sure that she'll send for them, keep in touch, continue to care for and about them, but she doesn't. Neither the reader nor her children will ever know why she left or where she went. What we do know is that we'd have all liked grandparents like these. At first, we're as annoyed as Journey is with Grandpa's incessant snapping of photographs, but gradually we understand what he's doing and why. This is a book with more questions than answers, but, like all of MacLachlan's work, it's unforgetable.
The symbols in this book are not subtle and may be a good place for students to encounter and recognize symbolism. Journey's name is symbolic and students can trace the journey he makes from beginning to end of the brief novel. The camera is , or at least the photographs it takes are, symbols for stability and the idea that moments, while fleeting, matter and make up memories. The device of Journey's attempt to piece together the torn photographs left behind by his mother is obvious but effective. A stray cat that wanders in and delivers a litter of kittens is also symbolic for Journey and, when she gives birth on top of the photograph scraps of his mother that Journey is working on, that becomes symbolic as well. Grandpa's statement that things don't have to be perfect to be fine is one that students might like to grapple with.