Age Range: 3 to 5
My copy of On the Way Home has a different picture on the cover and is old, battered and well loved. It was well read when I first started teaching and it’s now the perfect story for my daughter who is trying to make sense of real characters versus fantasy characters, we have long conversations about the reality of ghosts, giants and dragons!
The Story: Claire has hurt her knee so she walks home to tell Mum what happened. On the way she meets various friends and gives each friend an imaginative explanation as to how she got her injury. When Claire gets home she tells Mum the truth (she fell off the swing) before bursting into tears. Mum’s solution, a plaster, helps to comfort her.
Jill Murphy’s character, Claire, has a very vivid imagination and her wild explanations for her injured knee include wolves, dragons, flying saucers and giants. I think the story is a great portrayal of the power of a child’s imagination. Like Claire, my daughter is going through a phase where she gives wonderfully fantastical explanations about everyday occurrences and the line between truth and fantasy can be blurred at times.
I like the layout of the double page spreads as they make it easy to follow the story (and allow a non reader to follow the story using the pictures). The pages are identically laid out with a mix of square boxes for Claire’s conversations with her friends and cloud shaped boxes show the reader what happened to her. The text is easy to read and the pictures are bold and colourful. The landscape of Claire’s walk changes to include a canal and a graveyard as well as streets of houses and garages which has stimulated discussions with my daughter about what we see on our way to kindergarten.
This story was a favourite with the children in my reception class when I first started teaching. It is a great book to use with pre readers for telling a story and the repetitive text also helps the beginner reader. We’ve also made our own ‘On the Way Home’ class book. Initial discussions stimulated the children’s imaginations and then each child drew a picture with their own fantasy idea about how Claire hurt her knee. Another great activity (if possible) is to take children on a walk from the park to the school and then recreate the walk by drawing a map. We used bricks and lego to make our own 3D class map of Claire’s walk home from the park which stimulated discussion about canals and graveyards as well as other landmarks that we might see on a walk.
A lovely, simple story with lots of potential for literacy learning in the reception classroom.
Quote from Jessica (age 5): “Are ghosts real or only in stories?”
Author / Illustrator: Jill Murphy