Today I am delighted to welcome Christopher Edge to the blog with a special guest post to celebrate the release of his latest extraordinary book, ‘The Longest Night of Charlie Noon.’ When Dizzy tells Charlie that he found something in the woods last night they set out to investigate despite warnings from the horrid Johnny who claims monsters lie in the woods. However their curiosity outweighs their fears but nothing can prepare them for what they discover deep inside the woods. With puzzles and dangers lurking at every corner can they make it out of the dark woods when seemingly there’s no escape! Once again Christopher has blown my mind with this highly imaginative tale filled with twists and turns. He takes you on an emotional rollercoaster of a journey as they try to make sense of what is happening as time plays tricks on their minds. Prepare to have your senses stimulated, your mind messed with in this emotional and extraordinary story.
The Longest Night of Charlie Noon – Christopher Edge
“Once upon a time, three kids got lost in the woods.
Sounds like a fairy story, doesn’t it?
But what exactly is a time?”
So begins the prologue to The Longest Night of Charlie Noon, but why do so many stories take us into the woods? From tales of Hansel and Gretel to The Wind in the Willows, adventures up the Faraway Tree and Bilbo Baggins battling giant spiders in the depths of Mirkwood, there’s something special about the landscape that storytellers find beneath a roof of leaves.
When I was researching The Longest Night of Charlie Noon, I spent one very scary night alone in the ancient woodland of Lower Woods where the story is set. As darkness fell and the shadows grew around me, I couldn’t help but feel that I’d been here before. Then I remembered that I had, in the pages of a story. One of my favourite childhood books was Danny, The Champion of the World by Roald Dahl, and as I stepped through the darkness of Lower Woods, I felt like I was Danny, searching for his dad in the darkness of Hazell’s Wood; Dahl’s evocative description of this experience always accompanied in my mind by Jill Bennett’s magical illustrations.
The Longest Night of Charlie Noon is also linked to another, maybe more-forgotten, classic of children’s literature: the novel Brendon Chase by the author, illustrator and naturalist Denys Watkins-Pitchford, who wrote under the pen name ‘BB’. When researching the book I immersed myself in nature writing, reading wonderful books by Robert Macfarlane and Patrick Barkham to name but a couple, both writers who have mentioned the formative influence of this novel, as does Philip Pullman who writes in Daemon Voices of the Blakean delight he found in BB’s writing about the natural world.
When I finished the first draft of The Longest Night of Charlie Noon, I picked up a copy of Brendon Chase and in it I found strange parallels with the story I was telling. First published in 1944, but set in the inter-war period, Brendon Chase is about three boys who run away from home to live wild in the woods for months, making their home in a hollow oak tree. The Longest Night of Charlie Noon is about three children who spend just one night in the woods, but for Charlie, Dizzy and Johnny, this night seems to last for a very long time…
In another essay from Daemon Voices, Philip Pullman writes of ‘the path through the wood’, categorising these as ‘the difference between the story-world and the story-line’ and stressing that the duty of the storyteller is to stick to the path. I think he’s absolutely right, but the wonderful thing about stories about woods is that the path has to lead through the darkness of the trees before you can reach the light.
I’ll leave you with one final quotation from The Longest Night of Charlie Noon:
“This tree may look old, but it is only a fleeting moment in the universe. Once upon a time it was a seed, then a sapling and, in another time and place, it will be something else again.” Maybe even a book…
Perhaps that’s why stories so often take us into the woods – it’s because the paper that they’re printed on retains the memories of the trees they once were.
Thank you to Christopher for this really intriguing guest post.
Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more special guest posts and reviews.
Thank you to Clare and Nosy Crow for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a gifted copy of this book. ‘The Longest Night of Charlie Noon,’ is available to buy online or from any good bookshop.