Mark Spark in the Dark by Jacqueline Wilson is actually two stories in one, Mark Spark and Mark Spark in the Dark.
Unlike most of Wilson’s fare for children it involves neither the social services nor unrelenting misery. There isn’t really time for that. The stories are not very long, and hop along at a pace. You do get the sense that all is not entirely well in the world of Mark Spark, should you be a keen enough reader to extrapolate from the details Wilson puts in, and more importantly what she leaves out. For example, when Mark and his friends play splashing in puddles Mark does not have wellington boots and because he wants to join in, is forced to sacrifice his new trainers to the gods of splashy water play. His parents are remarkable by their absence, and Mark is mostly cared for by his blind grandmother who is the fount of all knowledge, and purveyor of condensed milk sandwiches.
The stories tell about how Mark is keen to help raise money for a guide dog provided by the school for the local blind community, and in the second story tells how Mark conquers his fear of the dark.
I am not a huge fan of Wilson’s work. I do not see the appeal. But then most small children I know do not see the appeal of Nancy Mitford, so we call it quits and agree to disagree.
My son picked this book as his reading book last week. He started off full of enthusiasm, but lost interest about half way through and found it distinctly meh. It wasn’t difficult to read, and with its short length, easy to manage vocabulary and illustrations it does make a good transition or chapter book. It is marketed by Puffin as a Puffin ‘Readalone’ and it is great for newly confident readers. It is also equally accessible to boys and girls, unlike a lot of Wilson’s other output. But he just didn’t find it that interesting. Nor did I.