First published in 2007, The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers has a carnivalesque/tall tale plot but with the slow, reflective mood of Jeffers’ later work, for example The Heart And The Bottle.

the way back home cover

 

STORY STRUCTURE OF THE WAY BACK HOME

WEAKNESS IN THE WAY BACK HOME

“Once there was a boy.”

This is a generic child and he doesn’t require a psychological/moral weakness. He’s a stand-in character for the reader.

He is perhaps a little too rash. (He should have checked the plane had petrol, at least!)

DESIRE IN THE WAY BACK HOME

He wants to fly the aeroplane that he finds in his cupboard one day when putting things away.

OPPONENT IN THE WAY BACK HOME

Nature’s against him — this plane he found has run out of petrol and now he’s stuck on the moon.

suddenly-the-plane-spluttered

PLAN IN THE WAY BACK HOME

When the alien happens to turn up they make a plan together.

up-in-space

The reader only sees them gesture to each other. We don’t know how they’re going to get off the moon.

plan

A great example of sequential narrative art, in which the same characters are repeated performing sequential actions, without frames.

BATTLE IN THE WAY BACK HOME

The boy’s main battle is with himself. Back on Earth, he gets waylaid by the TV. But eventually he realises what he’s supposed to be doing. The battle is symbolised by the very high mountain he has to climb in order to hoist himself back up to the moon.

SELF-REVELATION IN THE WAY BACK HOME

After fixing the alien’s flying saucer and filling his own plane with petrol he learns that he can be self-sufficient.

But the other part of the plot is about the kindness of strangers. The boy learns that strangers in a pickle can help each other out.

NEW EQUILIBRIUM IN THE WAY BACK HOME

He goes back home. The alien goes the opposite direction, also back home. A lot of picture books have a circular ending, especially carnivalesque ones, in which we get the idea this kind of thing is going to happen all over again, only with a minor modification. But Oliver Jeffers doesn’t tend to do that — his work has a melancholic finality to it. It’s bittersweet that this boy will never see the alien again, and Jeffers’ depiction of the boy saying goodbye is perfect — looking at the ground and drawing into the moondust with his toe.

the way back home ending