The Wood Between the World
When I was young, I read the Narnia books over and over again. There was so much that I loved in those books, but there was one place which has forever remained lodged in my imagination: the Wood Between the Worlds.
I’m sure you remember it too. In The Magician’s Nephew, Digory and Polly find themselves a forest, which is full of pools of water. Jump in a pool, holding a magic ring, and you will emerge in a different world. You can only return to your own world – or visit another – by returning to the wood and jumping in another pool. If a world dies, the pool dries up.
The Wood Between the Worlds is a perfect metaphor for fiction, and particularly children’s books. Many of my favourite novels are based in parallel worlds, like ours but subject to different laws and filled with different populations. Picking up a copy of The Lord of the Rings or a Discworld novel is like jumping into one of those pools.
I love the way that fiction takes us to a different world, alerts us to new possibilities, and transforms our vision of our own world. But in my current series, Hope Jones, I wanted to do something very different: I wanted to write about my own world and the present moment. Jump in the pool, disappear under the water, and you’ll emerge back where you started. Right here. Right now.
Why did I want to write about this moment in time? Because I wanted to write about the most important issue of our times, climate change, and how an ordinary child might respond.
We’re used to extraordinary heroes in children’s books. We’re very familiar with a central character who is a “chosen one” tasked with saving the world from an existential threat. The chosen one isn’t like you or me; he or she is different, special, unique.
The hero of my new series, Hope Jones, isn’t like that. She will never get to visit the Wood Between the Worlds. She is not the Chosen One. She has no special skills or attributes. She’s just an ordinary kid who lives in an ordinary street with her ordinary family. She goes to an ordinary school and has ordinary friends. But in her own small way, she behaves heroically.
She gives up plastic, for instance, because she doesn’t want to be responsible for throttling any turtles with a discarded bag or straw. She stops eating meat because she’s worried about the methane emitted by burping cows. One of Hope’s best friends suffers an asthma attack during a relay race, so she mounts a protest outside her school, begging parents to leave their cars at home.
I’d love Reepicheep or Harry Potter to reverse climate change, but sadly I think our country will be ten metres underwater before either of them arrives to rescue us. This is a problem that we’re going to have to solve ourselves.
You, me, and Hope.