Fear of the dark is fear of the unknown. If you are unable to see what is out there, your imagination is quite adept at filling in the frightening gaps for you.
The Dark, by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Jon Klassen, focuses on Laszlo, a young boy who tries to preempt the dark from visiting his room at night by meeting it where it lives during the day, down in the basement. Poor Laszlo finds that his journey does little good after his nightlight burns out one evening. What's more, the dark wants to show Laszlo something.
As Laszlo timidly explores his cavernous, old house with nothing but a flashlight, we start to develop that same feeling of anxiousness. Our pulses quicken and our imaginations run wild.
The Dark is a picture book collaboration between two juggernauts of children's literature. Lemony Snicket has spent the past 15 years exploring all sorts of unfortunate things that can befall children but also how children can overcome those obstacles. Jon Klassen has gained much attention in the past couple years with his understated illustrations, often dealing with animals and their loss of hats.
Their work fits together well. Snicket keeps his text to couple of sentences per page with one exception. Klassen gets to explore the power of negative space as the dark envelops everything except for little Laszlo and his flashlight.
Laszlo's story follows the similar steps of other boys in picture books. Like Where the Wild Things Are and Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Dark lacks any parental guidance in its quest. This aspect of these stories suggests that many of our fears or desires must be met as individuals.
It would not be a Lemony Snicket book if the author did not step aside at one point to ruminate on the book's theme, this one being fear and why we are sometimes afraid of harmless objects. Some might see this as a lack of subtlety, but Snicket is just trying to make sure his point gets across clearly. There is a creaky, old roof mentioned earlier in the book, and Snicket points out that "without that creaky old roof, the rain would fall on your bed." Understanding why something is there helps to conquer one's fear of it.
What is the dark trying to show Laszlo? Read the book today to conquer your own fear of the unknown!