One day, a little boy discovers an aeroplane in his cupboard that he hadn’t realised he owned. Like any sensible child, he takes immediate advantage of the opportunity and hops on board. Unfortunately, just as the boy reaches the moon, his plane breaks down, and he finds himself stranded, with no hope of rescue and strange noises coming over the next ridge. What appears, of course, is not the monster he imagines, but an alien who has crashed on the other side of the moon. The two devise a plan, fix their respective vehicles, and return home. The final page suggests that the friendship begun with their shared adventure will continue.
Despite the presence of space travel and a friendly little Martian, Oliver Jeffers’ The Way Back Home feels more like a fantasy, somewhat reminiscent of Crockett Johnson’s Harold stories. The story and illustrations display familiarity with a sweet child-logic, from the crescent moon geography to the little boy’s simple solution of running home for a wrench to fix the alien’s spaceship. The illustrations are evocative and humorous, full of–as I’ve been telling people since I first fell in love with Jeffers’ work through this story–the most remarkably expressive stick people you’ve ever seen. This one is sure to be a favourite for both children and their parents, who will also have fun looking for hints of Jeffers’ earlier “Once there was a boy” books, How to Catch a Star and Lost and Found, in the illustrations!
Watch Oliver Jeffers takes us through a day in his life: