CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 12. . . .November 25, 2016
Lydia has just adopted Burt. Little does she know that Burt is actually (in his mind) a time traveller from another planet who only needs a temporary place to stay after losing his parents through a cosmic glitch. Lydia hopes Burt will recover from the horrible events of his past and settle into a comfortable life with her while Burt only wants to build a new chronomorphic engine so he can make contact with his home planet and find his true family once more. But when Burtís quest to return to outer space takes him to a high hill on a cold night, Lydiaís support and a warm, knitted hat offer the young space explorer exactly what heís been looking for.
Burtís Way Home, written and illustrated by John Martz, is a heartfelt story about the hard realities and imaginative escapes of a boy going through the process of adoption. Lydia knows it will take Burt time to settle into his new surroundings, but she worries about the way he keeps going outside and climbing hills on his own. She doesnít realize that, in Burtís mind, heís trying to get a signal to outer space where he believes his mom and dad are waiting for him. While the reader doesnít know exactly what happened to Burtís biological parents, itís easy to recognize how steadfastly Burt clings to the memory (or perhaps fantasy) of the life he once had. Itís a difficult transition for him to leave behind his time travelling in exchange for a quiet home with Lydia, but, through Lydiaís patience and kindness, Burt eventually starts to feel like Earth may be where he belongs, after all.
What makes this story so interesting is that itís not clear from the beginning just how much of Burtís narrative is true. At first, it seems like this might simply be a fun tale about a stranded time traveller. But as the plot progresses, the truth gradually, and somewhat painfully, reveals itself. Lydiaís role becomes clearer, and Burtís desperation for a happy, love-filled life becomes understood. The sadness of Burtís reality, coupled with the entertaining elements of science fiction, add a satisfying layer of depth to an otherwise straightforward story. Burtís Way Home offers an interesting take on the struggles of adoption, and, by doing so through the guise of a trans-dimensional traveller, the story becomes accessible for younger and older readers alike who may interpret the plot in different ways.
Burtís Way Home is done in the style of a comic, with sparse text supported by panels of illustrations. Drawn all in hues of blue, black, and white, the tone of the illustrations is soft and cool which perfectly matches the wintry setting and quiet nature of much of the plot. The images show how Burt and Lydia both experience the world around them, giving readers the opportunity to delve further into the story by looking beyond the written words. The text and images complement each other, and the story would not be as compelling without the nice balance Martz has struck between them.
All in all, John Martz has created a sweet story that is both whimsical and grounded in Burtís Way Home, a story that could easily be heartbreaking, but which ends on an unmistakable note of hope.
Meredith Cleversey, a librarian in Cambridge, ON, loves to read, write, and live in a world of pure imagination.
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