________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 37. . . .May 24, 2013


The Dark.

Lemony Snicket. Illustrated by Jon Klassen.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 2013.
40 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
ISBN 978-1-44341-794-5.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Valerie Nielsen.

*** /4



Laszlo was afraid of the dark. The dark lived in the same house as Laszlo, a big place with a creaky roof, smooth, cold windows, and several sets of stairs. Sometimes the dark hid in a closet. Sometimes it sat behind the shower curtain. But mostly it spent its time in the basement...

Every morning, Laszlo peeks into the basement to say "Hi" to the dark in hopes that the dark will not visit him in his room. Despite Laszlo’s attempts, the dark does appear in the small boy's bedroom and invites him down into the basement. "I want to show you something," says the dark. Laszlo follows with trepidation and a flashlight. Never before has he dared to go down to the dark's room at night. The dark has a surprise for his young visitor Step by scary step, Laszlo is led through the basement toward an old dresser. "Bottom drawer" said the dark. "Open the bottom drawer." In the bottom drawer, Laszlo finds a handy little item which has been used over the years to help children conquer their fear of the dark.


The collaboration of Lemony Snicket (beloved author of A Series of Unfortunate Events and All the Wrong Questions) with Jon Klassen, writer and illustrator of two hilarious children's picture books, including I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat, is one that can be expected be a winner. Both have a delightful, sly sense of humour which resounds with young readers. Klassen's simple, spare illustrations perfectly depict the conflict between the dark as an enemy blackening every page and the small protagonist shedding light with his ever-present flashlight. Conceiving of the dark as a character involved in a conversation with a frightened five-year old is a clever literary device which is captivating throughout the book with one somewhat jarring exception. About two-thirds of the way through The Dark, there is a mini lecture of about 140 words (not enclosed with quotation marks) explaining the importance of darkness. This piece of writing interrupts the flow of the conversation in which Laszlo and the dark are engaged and seems irrelevant to the plot, characters or theme of the book.

     The above minor objection aside, The Dark should prove an enjoyable read-aloud to share with pre-school and early primary grade youngsters. There is just enough creepiness in the story to ensure a need for reader and listener to snuggle up, as well as an ending to give them a good chuckle.


Valerie Nielsen, a retired teacher-librarian, lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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