Alison Lester has a gift for writing words that bounce – there’s a rhythm to them that's easy for the reader to catch and hold onto. The Journey Home isn't a rhyming book, but it does read in a lyrical sort of way. There’s a repeated refrain of ‘come inside and stay’ making this a good early reader.
Alison Lester’s illustrations are always among my favourites—they're simple and appealing to children for their interesting detail, but they also appeal to me in their gentleness and softness.
Wild and Woolly are two children (we’ve had many a debate as to which child is which) who dig such a big hole in their sandpit that when they fall into it, they come out at the North Pole—and:
“Immediately they set out on the journey home.”
Because that’s what you do when you fall into a hole that lands you far from home. And the journey home turns out to be quite the trip!
Over a series of days and nights, Wild and Woolly visit all sorts of places and people and there’s an overwhelming sense of the goodness and wonder of the world.
Not only are there all manner of fascinating places to visit, the people and characters who live there are profoundly good. Even the pirate breaks the pirate stereotype by being generous and welcoming and happily waving Wild and Woolly on to the next part of their adventure.
This is a book bursting at the seams with good things to teach, without one hint of preachiness:
There's tenacity, joy in the journey and siblings sticking together without blame.
There's the ease with which Wild and Woolly adapt to the various cultural, geographic and economic circumstances (everything from a castle to a creaking pirate ship to a caravan complete with crooked chimney and crystal ball!).
There’s recognition of the importance of childhood playtime and freedom.
There's love and caring—at every place they visit, Wild and Woolly are welcomed, fed, cared for, given a bed for the night and sent on their way home. And every time, they look happy, rested and comforted.
There’s an acknowledgement that while there are splendours and adventures to be had, home is always the destination.
And, when they finally arrive home, their parents are waiting for them with literally open arms. (Their home is delightful—it’s small, welcoming, with a swing in a tree and a comfy couch—and at last two snuggly beds for Wild and Woolly to settle into after a very big day.)
This is one of my favourite books. I think it's because, of all the things I want my children to know, perhaps most of all is that no matter how big the hole they fall into, no matter how many fascinating stops they make along the way and no matter how long it takes, it will always be good to be home.
And their parents will always be waiting for them with cups of hot chocolate (metaphorically anyway—I can’t make any guarantees that there'll always be real hot chocolate on the shelf!).