Who's Afraid of the Dark? Not Us!
Published on Monday, April 29, 2013 - 10:55am
Monsters under the bed, and ghosts in the closet. Creaky sounds, and strange shapes -- for kids, all kinds of spooky sensations can come to life once the lights go down. Though not unusual, fear of the dark definitely hits some children harder than others. Fortunately, this is nothing new, and over the years a number of great picture books have come out that specifically address this fear, and offer kids tools and strategies for overcoming it.
Penned by science fiction master Ray Bradbury, with pictures by celebrated Ashanti to Zulu illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon, Switch on the Night tells the story of a boy who is so devastated by nightfall that he must keep a light on at all times. For him, darkness not only brings fear, it also brings loneliness -- he can hear other children playing after dark, but he is too anxious to join them.
The M.C. Escher-style illustrations -- with the floor on the ceiling, and stairs going every which way -- really communicate the boy's confusion and feeling of being trapped inside his fear. One night, a kind and gentle girl appears, who calls herself Dark. She shows the boy a new way of looking at the night, proving that it isn't so scary after all -- just different!
Sometimes, it's all just a matter of perspective.
Just released, Lemony Snicket's The Dark is illustrated by fellow children's author and illustrator Jon Klassen. The plot and prose are fresh and economical. The text is also flexible, lending itself to sinister or friendly interpretations, according to the reader's taste.
Laszlo is a little boy who does not like the dark. He does not like that it hangs out in certain parts of his room, and that it comes to visit him every evening. However, the dark realizes this, and directs him down to the basement one night -- would you follow? -- only to reveal a particularly bright and helpful surprise.
In the end, though the boy still prefers the light, he realizes that the dark is necessary after all. The daytime wouldn't be special without it!
When the sun goes down and the moon comes up, don't be scared. Curl up with a good book!