Friday 1 March 2013

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week ending 1st March 2013 Part 1: Charlotte's choice - "The Dark" by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen (Orchard Books)

Once again, we are faced with the near-impossible task of choosing between two books as Book of the Week this week. When a mysterious parcel came to the door, bearing a rather beautiful label with our address on and a young boy shining a torch, we weren't quite sure what to expect.

Opening the parcel, we were greeted with something that looked like it belonged in Stanley Kubrick's '2001 - A Space Odyssey".

The mysterious black box. Exciting? You betcha!
A black box? It could only mean one thing - the fruit of probably one of the most amazing collaborations in recent children's picture book history. The razor sharp writing and deliciously black prose of Lemony Snicket and the fantastic artwork of Jon Klassen.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we present to you our review and indeed one half of our Book of the Week nominations for this week - "The Dark"

A little boy, Laszlo, is afraid of the dark. All through the day, the dark lives in the basement under the house, or perhaps behind a cupboard or shower curtain - but at night the dark creeps out to envelop every room. Nothing can stop it, save for Laszlo and his nightlight and torch.

Laszlo is an incredibly brave little guy. In the daytime, he stands at the top of the stairs and talks to the dark. "Hi Dark, Hi" he says. But one night, the dark does not stop at Laszlo's door, it comes to visit him!

Peekaboo, I see you!
As you'd expect from such a pairing (and indeed from Orchard Books), this is a children's book of the highest possible quality. The positive message delivered around Laszlo's bravery, and the dark's 'voice' had such an electrifying effect on Charlotte that we worried it might dwell on her mind at night at her bedtime. But she loved Laszlo almost immediately, and loved the fact that Laszlo (just like her) had a nightlight and torch to keep the dark at bay.

We often wonder why children are immediately drawn to books that are dark in tone, perhaps it's for the same reasons that adults seek out extreme ways of scaring themselves. Horror films, crazy roller coasters, extreme sports, naked bungee jumping, that sort of thing.

To Charlotte though, this book was just utterly perfect. We still won't be reading it to her at bedtime - and we always choose the brightest days to dip into it, but we admire the way the book empowers children through Laszlo to challenge their own fears, and particularly for children (like Charlotte) who are afraid of the dark, the way it ends with reassurance and perhaps even a strong message of understanding and friendship rather than something that merely goes 'bump' in the night.

Charlotte's best bit: The 'voice' I read the dark in. A monotone, no emotion, completely flat (and very hard to do with a book you're trying not to scare a child with). Think Cyberman-voice, eek!

Daddy's favourite bit: As a massive fan of "A Series Of Unfortunate Events" and also of Jon Klassen's other children's books, who could possibly resist this?

(Kindly sent to us for review by Orchard Books. "The Dark" is available in Hardback on 3rd April 2013)