Friday, May 31, 2013

Picturebook Review: The Dark by Lemony Snicket, Illustrated by Jon Klassen

Picturebook Review:  The Dark
Words: Lemony Snicket
Pictures: Jon Klassen
Published by Little, Brown and Company, 2013
Illustrations done in gouache and digitally

Goodreads Description:
Laszlo is afraid of the dark.

The dark lives in the same house as Laszlo. Mostly, though, the dark stays in the basement and doesn't come into Laszlo's room. But one night, it does.

This is the story of how Laszlo stops being afraid of the dark.

With emotional insight and poetic economy, two award-winning talents team up to conquer a universal childhood fear. 

My Review:
Opening the book with thick black endpapers and young Laszlo illuminating the story about to unfold, I was immediately drawn into the story. The title page is in the cone of light from the assumed flashlight. It's as if to say, 'these words have been lit for the sole purpose of telling this story, and as soon as it is finished, will be swallowed again by darkness'. It appears a bit mischievous really. A little scary even. 

Being a long-dedicated fan of Lemony Snicket, and more recently Jon Klassen, I had high expectations for this book. It is difficult to judge a book without regards to its author's and/or illustrator's reputation, so I will do my best. The Dark is a wonderful book, and it reflects Snicket and Klassen's reputations well. However, I must say I (just  as an aside!) I missed Snicket's sharp wit. His writing was still very clever, but this book is much more tame in comparison to some of Snicket's other works. Okay, I'm done with that now. Let's get on to the story!

As written previously, this is a really wonderful book. The story is simple, yet animated.   The dark is personified by Laszlo. It has a voice and invites Laszlo into his "room". The reader does not know the dark's intentions, so there is much anticipation what will happen to Laszlo as he enters the dark alone. The unknown, that fear, was livable throughout the story. Laszlo followed the dark, and even with his flashlight to light his path, he was still always surrounded by dark. "[A]nd even though the dark was right next to Laszlo, the voice seemed very far away."It certainly sounds suspicious. And truly, my favorite part of this story, is that even after all Laszlo overcomes, the fear isn't instantly or entirely eradicated. The dark will always be mischievous and Laszlo continues to linger in the light. 

I really enjoyed the illustrations as well. As touched on earlier, the lighting was masterfully done, and its relevance to the story personified through the verbal narrative. Klassen does a great job at reflecting Laszlo's childhood fears with color and size. Every color had some dark hue or shadow to give the setting of the story and offer a visual narrative that correlates with the verbal. Also, Laszlo is always very small. Chairs, doors, and stairs seem to tower over his small body. I don't think I need to interpret this any further, but I thought the illustrations were combined perfectly with the text. The two narratives really came together to tell the story. Snicket and Klassen make a great team. Character and anticipation were developed throughout the book with a satisfying, yet slightly unresolved ending. 

I'm going to give this book 5 out of 5 foxes. It was fantastic. It is a simple, you might even say common, story. However, it is very powerful, especially good for young readers with fears of their own. This book is clever in that much of what the book states, is actually unsaid in the narrative. It has a lot of feeling, and I think young readers can appreciate Laszlo's learning experience. Especially since it doesn't simply announce that one should not be afraid of the dark, rather to acknowledge the fear and welcome it. 

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