Sunday, 23 June 2013

A review of "The Dark" written by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Jon Klassen

Hi Folks in the Smoke,

   In this dream-team pairing of the renowned story-weaver, Snicket, and a rising illustration star, Klassen, we find a tale that is both retro and timeless.

   Laszlo apparently lives alone is a large rickety house with long stairs and huge windows, save for one cohabitant, the dark. The lack of adult supervision doesn't bother Laszlo or us, but soon the dark bothers us both. It lurks in many nooks and crannies, but it lives in the basement. And at night, it spreads everywhere and can't be escaped. One night Laszlo's nightlight fails so the dark must be confronted and the two occupants begin an intriguing dialogue that ends in acceptance.

   Snicket's text is well paced, starting mournfully, becoming sinister and then resolving nicely to a comforting end. Giving the dark its own voice is really effective, as is referring to it as the dark rather than the darkness. The font alters from black to white as the settings dictate and this offers a pleasing contrast throughout - each passage bristles on the page. The page on which the merit and importance of the dark is described is beautiful though it does feel a little text heavy, especially for a younger reader.

   We're used to Klassen's animals so it's intriguing to see how he depicts a little, lonely boy and the empty house he wanders around. Laszlo has button eyes, 50s hair and a onesie. Light seems umber and warm while  the black belonging to the dark is inky, deep and intense. The gorgeously textured paper enhances this palette greatly.

    This is an interesting, slightly sad story. I'm not sure it would necessarily resolve severe fears of the dark; it's much more sinister than the tender and reassuring "The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark", say. From an adult's reading point it actually feels like a simple, short horror story, all be it one with a tender ending. But it is solemn, subtle and beautiful and could encourage discussions about fears and phobias in general with slightly older readers, perhaps 5+.

    Thanks for reading,

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