Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Dark, by Lemony Snicket

Title:  The Dark
Author:  Lemony Snicket
Illustrator:  John Klassen
Publisher:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Year: 2013
Pages: 40
Genre:  Fantasy
Themes:  Overcoming Fears
Age Range: 1st through 5th Grade

Laszlo is afraid of the dark, but the dark is not afraid of Laslo. Most of the time the dark lives in the basement, except at night when the dark spread and covers the land.  The night that Laszlo's nightlight burns out, the dark invites Laszlo down into its lair to find what he needs, and in the process shows Laszlo that the dark doesn't have to be scary.

Being afraid of the dark is a pretty common childhood fear.  Most of us get over it with some degree of success, but who among us hasn't caught a faint reflection of ourselves in a mirror in a dark room and squealed in fright?  Well, Snicket and Klassen take this fear and use it for this charming story about Laslo and the dark.  Laszlo is not a wimpy crybaby of a kid, but he does have a healthy fear of and respect for the dark.  Every morning when it is safely back in the basement he stands at the top of the stairs and says hello to the dark, and he figures that maybe if he visits the dark every day, the dark will stay out of his room at night.  That works wonderfully-until that pesky nightlight burns out.  The story is engaging for young audiences, who may be struggling with their own fear of the dark, and the illustrations make great use of light and complete blackness to demonstrate the dark's power, both over the physical setting and poor Laszlo's mind.

The Dark won the Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding picture books for 2013, and it is a well-deserved honor.  Klassen won the Caldecott for his book This is Not My Hat, and the art is just as imaginative in this book.  Snicket is best known for The Series of Unfortunate Events books, which my daughter inhaled like oxygen when she was in elementary school.  Teachers can use the story to discuss the role of a narrator, and inanimate objects as characters.  And there are great opportunities for cross-curricular activities in writing, science, and art.  Definitely recommend this book as a mentor text, read aloud, or as part of a classroom library.

Teacher Resources: Guide
Interview with Lemony Snicket about The Dark

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