The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen

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The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Anne Thompson
Reviewed by Anne Thompson
Summary: This is a stylish and original picture book which deals with a small boy’s fear of the dark in an unusual way.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 40 Date: April 2013
Publisher: Orchard Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781408330029

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Longlisted for the 2014 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal

Lazlo is afraid of the dark. Each night he takes a torch to bed as he knows that the dark shares the house with him, lurking in all the corners of his home. Usually though, the dark lives in the basement and each morning Lazlo builds up the courage to go to the door of the basement and say hi to the dark. But then one night the dark does something different and visits Lazlo in his bedroom and speaks to him! It has something that it wants to show Lazlo and it is something that will help Lazlo to overcome his fear.

This collaboration between Lemony Snicket author of The Series of Unfortunate Events and Jon Klassen, award winning illustrator of I Want My Hat Back, is a picture book with an instant impact. It has an extremely stylish and striking cover and with a heavy weight feel to the pages it has, in some ways, a timeless feel to it. Lazlo himself has an old-fashioned look about him too. However, as one would expect from Snicket, the book takes a rather unusual approach to dealing with children’s fears. One aspect that struck me particularly was the complete absence of adults in the story and it is a clever ploy to show a small child coping with and eventually conquering a fear without the assistance of a parent figure. Jon Klassen’s illustrations add to the feeling of tension and serve to demonstrate Lazlo’s isolation as he stands, a tiny figure in his nightclothes, surrounded by a sea of jet black page.

The story creates a personality for the dark without ever creating a picture of it other than the blackness on the page. Personally I believe that the feel of this story depends to a large degree on the voice used for the dark itself when the book is read aloud. Read by an adult it would be possible to create a friendly and warm character, perhaps a fairly bland nondescript one or even a slightly scary one. This would alter again if it was read alone by a slightly older child. Although the story has a happy ending and Lazlo conquers his fear I am not convinced that this would reassure an extremely nervous child but I know that other parents think that it does this very well.

As a school librarian I was reluctant to read this aloud to a group of young children in case it heightened nervousness in the more timid. However shared with a loving parent I am sure this would not be an issue and it could in fact be a very comforting story. The other very positive aspect of this book is the opportunity it provides to open up discussion about fears and how to cope with them. In some ways the way in which the suspense is built slowly towards the climax of the story results in this book also being an introduction to the horror genre too, albeit a gentle one!

The Dark is a book that I think may well be discussed for some time being both highly original and visually stunning.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen has recently been included on the Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist and is well worth a look. For a very gentle book about a fear of the dark I would recommend Can't You Sleep, Little Bear? by Martin Waddell and Barbara Firth

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Buy The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen at


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