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I’ve been wanting to get my hands on The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen for a long time.  The problem I have is that my desire for books outstrips both my economic capacity to buy them, and usually my alloted time in which to read ‘everything that was ever published that I am interested in’ bearing in mind that I read and review adult fiction too.  I have to deny myself some pleasures, and now that my youngest child is eight, I tend to note down picture books I want to read, but not buy them any more.

dark

Thank goodness for libraries.

Please let libraries not become a thing of history just yet. Or preferably ever.

So I found: The Dark, in the library and very delighted I was too.  Lemony Snicket’s, ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ was a bit of an event in itself in children’s publishing back in the day and I have sat through many a story time with children reading excerpts to me. I’ve read the first four in the series to my own children, until they got impatient with me and sped off to read the rest in their own time (I must finish the series soon). I enjoy Snicket’s other picture books, particularly one called ’13 Words’ with Maira Kalman.

I also love Jon Klassen’s work. I Want My Hat Back is a book that makes me howl with laughter no matter how many times I read it.  This is the sort of book a parent wants, as if a picture book turns out to be a particular favourite of your child’s, you will be required to read it literally hundreds of times. With Klassen’s work this is never a problem.

I was delighted at the idea of these two great artist/author/illustrators coming together to collaborate, and I wasn’t disappointed.

On the face of it, this is a fairly traditional story about how a small boy, called Laszlo gets over his fear of the dark.

What I particularly liked about this is that the sparseness of the text gives room for plenty of talk between the person reading it and whoever they’re reading it with or to. Also there is that wonderful sense of humour that Snicket infuses into even the most troubling of his work that makes each word work that little bit harder.

I love the fact that in the case of this story, the loneliness and potential fear of the dark is heightened by the fact that Laszlo is the only human in the book. We do not see his parents or his siblings. Nobody solves his problem for him. He has to figure it out for himself…

Well…

Were it not for the fact that in this book the Dark is an actual entity in its own right.

This could be scary, and the book nods to lots of gothic conventions and scary stories, like for example, The Hairy Toe.

But then, wonderfully, likeably, sensitively, this book turns that gothic convention on its head.

The sparse beauty of Klassen’s drawings, the reliance on tones of light and shade and pitch black to tell you all you need to know, the angularity of the drawings, the creepiness of the house, even though you only really see the odd architectural detail and so much light or dark drenched space, all adds to the wonder of the book.

A perfect book for dealing with fear of the dark. A perfect picture book all round.

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