Well, it is until you start asking questions...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? A different century? 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, hand-coloured 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.
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? Most recently, Sally Gardner has been asking questions about doors, in her latest book The Door That Led To Where, which I've just read and enjoyed. Her door is an escape from the twenty-first century into the nineteenth, and people go through it for all sorts of reasons, but mostly to escape some problem in their current lives. That's another question you can ask kids to consider for a door exercise. What would you want to escape from - and what might you find on the other side of your door? Would it be simple safety, a room nobody else could find? Or a whole new universe of exciting adventures, where you could play the hero? Teri Terry's excellent Mind Games (also just published) has a door of another kind - a trapdoor to a secret place where only certain people can go, a place where you can change the virtual worlds in people's heads, and create new worlds of your own.
When is a door not just a door? When it's a key to unlocking the imagination. Why not open your own door, and see what's on the other side?