From the moment this book – in its mysterious black box padded with black tissue paper – arrived, the boys and I were pretty excited about it. The world of book lovers has been agog with anticipation about this collaboration between two of its biggest names and the boys and I feel very lucky that we’ve had a sneaky, torch-lit peak at it ahead of its publication.
We are big fans of Jon Klassen’s work – see here for my review of ‘Extra Yarn‘ – but haven’t yet read anything by Lemony Snicket (the pen name for novelist Daniel Handler). Obviously we are aware of his ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ series, but given that we haven’t read them yet we weren’t sure what to expect when it came to the story.
C immediately recognised that the book was by the same illustrator as some of his other books and was interested in the subject matter as well. He’s not exactly *afraid* of the dark, but he’s not one hundred per cent comfortable with the concept either. I was therefore really interested to see how he responded to the book (I couldn’t get H to sit still for long enough to get an accurate opinion from him!)
The illustrations have a vintage quality that really appeals to me and the sparse text leaves lots of room for discussion, of which C always takes full advantage.
He wanted to know why the dark could talk and move and initially this premise seemed to make him more frightened of the dark than he’d been beforehand (though this wasn’t helped by the horror film-type voice that M used when reading it aloud). However, as the story progressed, he became more comfortable with it and by the end he was very chipper about it. It helps that H often says, ‘Hi, Dark!’, just as Laszlo does (though he’s been doing it since before we read this book) and it always makes us smile
I would never want my children to have worries or fears that consumed them and I think that books are a really good way to explore these things in a safe way. In a sense, it helped that C did feel a little afraid at the start of the book because it heightened his feeling of reassurance when things worked out well in the end and it gave us a way to talk about other things that we might find frightening (for me it’s tummy buttons…).
M and I have had a few discussions recently about picture books that seem to be created more for adults than children. I hasten to add that there is nothing wrong with picture books for adults – I for one would love to see more of them. M feels that some of Klassen’s other books are targeted at adults as much as children and I thought that this book would fall into the same category for him. He did think that imagining the dark as a living thing was a hard concept for a three year old to grasp but that, as with Klassen’s books, ‘I Want My Hat Back‘ and ‘This Is Not My Hat‘, C still understood them at his own level and actually got more out of this one than any of the others.
I love the story behind how the book came into being:
“…Jon Klassen shared a sketch with his editor of a small boy, a flashlight and some text sitting just outside the flashlight’s reach that read, “‘Over here’, said the dark.” The image was bursting to tell a story and Klassen’s editor sent it to Daniel Handler (the author behind the pen name Lemony Snicket) to see if he might let that story out.”
Source: Orchard Books, 2013.
This is definitely a book that we’ll be returning to again and again and although I can see how it might actually be a bit scary at the outset for children who were totally terrified of the dark (the amount of black in the illustrations might be a bit much for them), for me it’s got that extra sparkle that ensures a book will stay with me for a long time.
Disclaimer: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. I was not asked to write this post, nor was I given any money for doing so, and the review represents my own honest opinion.