Taking photographs is an important element in the novel Journey, by Patricia MacLachlan. In the novel, Grandfather, who loves to take pictures of his family, says, “Sometimes pictures show us what is really there.” Grandma put it this way, “The camera knows.”
Journey, their grandson, is angry because his mom has left. When he finds the box of torn family photos that his mom had ripped up before she left, he tries to tape them back together, thinking that the pictures will somehow make things right again. Although the task is impossible, Grandfather says, “Journey’s got a right to these pictures.” He says, “It’s Journey’s past.”
Journey, who is a lot like his grandfather, becomes interested in taking photographs, too. Through the interest in photography that he shares with his grandfather, Journey learns to accept his family as it is, and he comes to appreciate the family that he is a part of now with his grandparents.
As a follow-up activity to this short novel, I like to have kids draw pictures, “photos” of Journey and his family as they are described in the novel and in important scenes from the story. Students can explain what their pictures represent and provide quotes as evidence from the text. This activity involves a combination of several story elements – characterization, plot, and theme. You can download the activity sheet here: Journey Activity.