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The Dark by Lemony Snicket

thedark.jpeg

The Dark is the story of Laszlo, who is quite afraid of the dark. The dark lives in his house, in the basement, where it belongs. Laszlo greets the dark every morning in the basement hoping that by visiting the dark, it would never visit him in his room. Of course all it takes is a burnt out bulb for the dark to visit, invited or not.

The illustrations by Jon Klassen are astonishing. His stock has risen considerably in 2013, and with good reason: he was the author of the Caldecott Medal-winning This Is Not My Hat and the illustrator of the Caldecott Honor-winning Extra Yarn. The images in this book really stand out - clean lines, textural colors, and beautifully designed spaces - but the most important and most extraordinary part of the illustrations is the negative space. Klassen uses the changing light as the sun sets, ambient light spilling from other rooms, and the beam of Laszlo's flashlight to illuminate what is seen, but also to contrast against ever-present lurking dark. The dark isn't a scary villain; it is a necessary foil to the light.

In an interview with NPR, Lemony Snicket likened writing the book to being on a lifeboat: he had to keep jettisoning words in order to keep the text from being redundant. Words are very important in Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events books, and I tend to think of him as quite verbose (which here means using quite a lot of words when only one might do, although more words can be nice as well). This text uses simple motifs that echo the clarity of the images and gently nudge forward like a hesitant little kid. The final book is stark and minimal: it is a tender little story about a boy and his fear. He doesn't conquer the dark in the heroic, majestic, storybook sense; he just talks to it, follows it, and then isn't bothered by it.

Extra bonus: if you have read and enjoyed Jon Klassen's I Want My Hat Back, I definitely recommend a little slideshow he did for the Guardian called "How to draw... a bear thinking about something."

Allie @ Central

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