Two characters meet in this visually dark but ultimately hopeful picture book by the popular, iconoclastic author Lemony Snicket. Not only does a small boy with soft blue pj’s live in a big, creaky house with smooth, cold windows. So does the dark. It’s there in the closet, or behind the shower curtain, and, most significantly, in the dank basement.
“All day long the dark would wait in a distant corner, far away from the squeaks and rattles of the washing machine, pressed up against some old, damp boxes and a chest of drawers nobody ever opened. At night, of course, the dark went out and spread itself against the windows and doors of Laszlo’s house.”
Can you imagine reading this aloud, lowering your voice to its silkiest, most mysterious tone? And won’t children be mesmerized as they see the child’s fears, along with the darkness, fill the book? And then the dark enters the boy’s bedroom and beckons him to follow. Perhaps you’ve guessed where the dark wants the boy to go …. yes, down down down the stairs into that most dreaded space, the basement.
Lemony Snicket, who has a multitude of upper-elementary school fans, will no doubt gain new, slightly younger ones with this inspired twist on an old and common fear. The dark, you see, is a mysterious but ultimately helpful character in this picture book, and because of this, the boy in his slate blue pj’s realizes he no longer needs to fear it.
The illustrator Jon Klassen (I Want My Hat Back, Extra Yarn, etc.) performs his own magic here, perfectly revealing the author’s tone, the boy’s feelings, and, finally, reassurance. Readers wade through the shadows (as, in life, we all do), where occasional specks of color — a home lit by a flashlight, a toy car, the cool blue morning light — bring unexpected moments of beauty. Perhaps The Dark will lead readers or young listeners to examine a fear in a new light. After all, as the author reminds us, “Without the dark … you would never know if you needed a lightbulb.”
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