I knew I was in for something when I saw both Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen on the cover–two of the darkest-humored authors in children’s lit. I was half right; this is a dark book. (Ahem. Sorry.) It’s also a totally charming glimpse into the mind of a little boy (and dark corners, and basements).
The dark lives in the same house as Laszlo, way down in the basement. He also hangs out by the shower curtain, and is rather cozy in the closet. So, every morning Laszlo opens the basement door and says hi, figuring the dark won’t visit his room if he visits the dark first. Is that not impeccable kid logic? But one night, the dark invites Laszlo downstairs–he has something to show him. What could it be?
Both the text and illustrations are straightforward, almost droll. The background is a contrast of very inky darkness and abstract shapes of scenery illuminated by the soft yellow of Laszlo’s flashlight. Laszlo looks nervous, but not overwhelmingly frightened, and any nervous child would be comforted by the levelheadedness of the text. The job of the dark, and of creaky roofs and shower curtains, is explained so earnestly as to make you smile, while also making perfect sense. Even a Tom Swifty is matter of fact: “‘Laszlo,’ the dark said, in the dark.” Hee.
The Dark is humorous without being humoring; it dispels the fear of the dark without talking down to kids. Snicket and Klassen have created an excellent bedtime story that both the kid and the dark would enjoy.
UPDATE: The Dark won the 2014 Charlotte Zolotow Award.