The Dark
The Dark
Lemony Snicket, illus. by Jon Klassen
ISBN 9780316187480
Little, Brown, 2013.
4 stars
Keywords: chiarascuro courage dark fear lemony-snicket

The Dark
by Lemony Snicket, illus. by Jon Klassen

Lemony Snicket (A Series of Unfortunate Events), having written 13 books about a family of orphans who live in fear, here pens a triumphant picture book in which a boy conquers his fear of the dark. Jon Klassen, working in the same palette as his 2013 Caldecott Medal–winning This Is Not My Hat, makes us believe that the dark is alive, and Snicket gives voice to it.

"Laszlo was afraid of the dark," the book begins. Readers immediately sense the interplay between light and dark in Laszlo's world, as the hero looks nervously at the window, where the sun is setting in the rosy rectangle of a window frame. His flashlight is within reach. The boy and the dark are the sole characters in the book. Post-sunset, the light plays off the staircase in rectangular blocks as the darkness increases its dominance. Snicket's sparest statements cause the scariest effects: "Sometimes the dark hid in the closet. Sometimes it sat behind the shower curtain." Each morning, Laszlo stands in the doorway to the basement and says, "Hi, dark.... Laszlo thought that if he visited the dark in the dark's room, maybe the dark wouldn't come visit him in his room." But of course, the dark does come to his room.

Readers, do not fear. Snicket and Klassen build to a well-earned victory for Laszlo, synchronized exquisitely between text and artwork. By the close, Laszlo ventures as far down as the second landing on the basement stairs, and we know he will be just fine.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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