By Lemony Snicket
Illustrated by Jon Klassen
Little, Brown and Company, 2013
The Dark is a children's picture book by Lemony Snicket, perhaps intended for ages 4-6. It deals, in a slightly creepy way, with fear of the dark. While it is a charming book, it does not involve unfortunate events or wrong questions, and will primarily be of interest to children of its intended age range.
"Laszlo was afraid of the dark.
The dark lived in the same house as Laszlo.
Sometimes it lived in the dark closet. Sometimes it hid behind the shower curtain.
But mostly it spent its time in the basement."
Laszlo is worried about the dark, but not so scared that he doesn't take some proactive diplomatic measures,visiting it in the basement and speaking to it politely. They live in uneasy peace, until one night Laszlo's nightlight goes out. That night, the dark calls him down to the basement.
Spoiler alert: After a bit of back and forth and author pontification, it emerges that the dark is guiding him to a drawer in a cabinet in the basement in which the spare light-bulbs are kept. Laszlo thanks the dark politely ("You're welcome", said the dark), and from that day forward the dark never bothers Laszlo again.
This is a charming book, with simple but pleasing illustrations and just enough Snickety humor to make it amusing to adults. The story is appropriate to the target age, although I think the first reading should probably not be a bedtime story, as the idea of an anthropomorphic dark is not immediately conductive to a good night's rest. It does have a happy ending, and at no point is it scary (unless the reader makes an attempt to make it so, I suppose).
While this book is generally quite fast-moving (although well-paced for suspense), there is a massive block of text (four paragraphs!) just before we discover that the dark is nice. This page can be skipped entirely, or the two middle paragraphs can be skipped without losing the overall sense. If you have a particularly patient young-un', they may even enjoy the wordy interlude. But I can't help but feel that this is massively out of place.
The illustrations are simple ink lines over gouache colors, exactly what we expect from Jon Klassen. This gives a lot of control over shading of light and dark, and helps keep the very limited palette visually pleasing. The overall composition of this book is excellent.