What is behind the door? Where might it lead? Who might lurk behind it? Another world? Another time? A faun with an umbrella? A robin? A garden full of wonders? Doors have a wonderful literary heritage in children's books. My grandmother bequeathed me her very own childhood copy of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, complete with onionskin covered, handcoloured plates, and slightly foxed sepia endpapers with elegant, curving swirls drawn upon them. A valuable second edition? I didn't care about that, only for the words inside, which blossomed into pictures inside my head. As an only child, with much older parents, I could relate to the lonely Mary Lennox, and her grumpy moods, and her 'might I have a bit of earth?'. The scene where that bit of ivy swings back, and the robin shows her the door to the garden is, for me, one of the great moments of heart thrilling literary suspense. And what I love almost as much is that what is behind the door is not a disappointment, but a wonderful adventure composed not of another world (though it might almost be so), but of brown earth and the magic of growing things. I too, after I had read about Mary Lennox, asked for my bit of earth, in which I grew lettuces and chinese lanterns and nasturtiums. Since then, I have branched out a bit in the gardening line, but that is a tale for another day.
The wardrobe door leading to Narnia is possibly the most famous door of all--and which of us can say that they have not looked longingly at the back of a cupboard (though probably not one hung with furs) and wished for it to dissolve into nothingness with snow and a lamp post beyond? My own novel, Hootcat Hill, features its own magical door--the Door to Avvallon, through which the heroine, Linnet, has to go before she can find herself and save her world. A shut door is an adventure in itself. What lies beyond the door at the top of this page? Only I can tell you--but I choose to leave it to your imagination. I'd love to know what flights of fancy you come up with, and I will send a signed copy of the new paperback of Hootcat Hill, which comes out next month, to the person who comes up with the most original answer, in 50 words or less in the comments box. I look forward to your entries. Closing date 15th March 2009.