Wordless Books


JiHyeon Lee

In children’s literature doors are frequently portals to strange, fantastical worlds – just think of the wardrobe door in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950). And it’s this concept that is at the heart of Door, which begins with a curious young boy unlocking a door that leads him into a new, undiscovered space.

The monochrome opening has a hint of The Secret Garden (1911) by Frances Hodgson Burnett as, like the robin that leads Mary into the walled garden, it is a bird that enables the boy to find the key to his door. The door itself is also wooden, latched and old, covered in cobwebs that suggest it hasn’t been opened for many years.

Spread from Door by JiHyeon Lee

Here the similarity ends. Although, like Mary, the boy does enter a garden, what he discovers behind his door is very different from Mary’s real-world walled garden. His colourful garden is one populated by round, red-coloured ‘people’ with long beak-like noses, as well as many other weird and magical creatures.

Spread from Door by JiHyeon Lee

Shortly after his arrival, a girl befriends the boy and takes him to join her family’s picnic. After the picnic the two new friends play together and wander through the soft, gentle landscape until they come across an area of grass with several other freestanding doors all over it.

Out of these emerge more exotic creatures, all gathering to celebrate a wedding, with which the boy and his newfound family join in. Finally it’s time for our hero to say goodbye to his friends and head back home through the original door. This time, though, rather than locking it, the boy leaves it invitingly ajar – open for a new visitor to walk through. Adventures are to be shared it seems…

JiHyeon Lee is a South Korean artist, born and living in Seoul. She studied illustration at the Hankuk Illustration School (HILLS) and her first book Pool (2013) was also wordless. It received high praise and was awarded the Gold Medal in the 2015 Society of Illustrators exhibition of children’s book illustration.