Two legends have joined forces to bring readers this elusively short picture book The Dark. On the one hand, you have Lemony Snicket, the author of the quirky, but beloved international best-selling A Series of Unfortunate Events, which has sold over 60 million copies. On the other, you have Jon Klassen, winner of the 2013 Caldecott medal for illustration for This Is Not My Hat and contributor to the famed children’s animated films Kung Fu Panda and Coraline.
As one would expect, gone from The Dark are the warm pastels and bright colors that are seen in most children’s books these days. Klassen inks with a dark pallet and draws with an elegant economy that will remind children’s film buffs of classics like 101 Dalmatians. Throughout the book, Klassen’s lovely artwork makes “the dark” a palpable, menacing presence–one which Snicket turns into a character.
The Dark lives in our young hero Laszlo’s basement, hiding there during the day and creeping out at night. But, one day, when Laszlo’s nightlight goes out, he must confront the Dark whether he’s ready or not. Snicket artfully builds suspense, leaving young readers gripping their seats as they await the outcome.
In the end, Laszlo and the Dark reach a truce. After all, the Dark aptly points out, without him, it would be light all the time, and that would be quite tiresome.
Once again, Snicket takes a leap by being “different,” carving out a dark, comic space all his own in the children’s book market, a sort of initiation for young readers who will go on to enjoy classics like R.L. Stine‘s books, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Bunnicula, The Graveyard Book, and Lemony Snicket’s own Unfortunate Events series, of course. The Dark will also surely appeal to aficionados of children’s horror and Gothic animated features, like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline, or Tim Burton’s latest film Frankenweenie.
Neil Gaiman does a lovely job of reading The Dark for its audiobook. I, frankly, think The Dark is a prime candidate for an interesting enhanced ebook. It will be exciting to see if Little Brown for Young Readers heads in that direction with The Dark as Hachette embraces the digital revolution.
For an added taste of The Dark, check out this lovely book trailer and a link to Neil Gaiman reading a brief selection from the book.