A new children's book by David Weale and Chloë Cork
by Heather Denning
When I opened the new children's book Doors in the Air by well known author David Weale I was overwhelmed by the world it presented to me. From the first illustrated title, featuring a grey cat with butterfly wings tethered to the word "air," Chloë Cork's illustrations display the theme of passageways again and again. The magic in this book is not in an fantastical world that is presented, but in the fantisization of the world in which we live. This world is peopled with familiar things—attics and porches, cats and crows. There is even a dragon (though not in the house, hidden tactfully behind a door). We are not separated from the beauty of the universe inside the pages, we are included. David's childhood love of stories such as Tarzan and Western adventures is reflected in the "faraway lands" that the main character can access without ever leaving his house.
I spoke to David about the phrase "doors in the air," and its significance to him personally. We talked of the Celtic tradition of doorways to a "mystery world, the world of the not yet born." This book celebrates these passages, "portals," if you will, in which other dimensions and other realities hover, nearly real, nearly able to be touched by the hand. Opening a door in the air allows the other realty, and its occupants, to be touched by the mind.
The beautiful collaboration that resulted in this book came about naturally. David wanted the control of choosing an illustrator afforded by self-publication, and Chloë Clark had provided small illustrations to him before. The fragile whimsey of her images was exactly what he wanted to show his nameless character's journey into his own mind. These images show the infinite space within the character's house, that he can access through the "doors in the air."
The collaboration will hopefully be the beginning of a fruitful team. With the demand for the book soaring, David is looking at becoming involved with a larger publishing house, to be able to increase distribution and circulation of the book, which presently is almost unknown off the Island.
It is easy to see, when reading the free-verse text within the book, that it is written for the child in David. Indeed, it is almost written by the child within, for there is little self-awareness and no contrived images or visible "adult" voice. The enchanting chatter of the text rolls off the tongue in the tradition of such lyrical writers as Lewis Carroll, who also accessed other worlds through portals, such as rabbit holes and looking-glasses. Unlike Carroll's at times sinister works though, there is nothing here to frighten or disturb even the youngest children. Worlds are not to be fallen into or trapped in, the door opens and closes at the wish of the main character and the reader, who opens and closes a "door in the air" with the opening and closing of the pages of the book.