Title: The Dark
Author: Lemony Snicket
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Publisher: Little Brown and Company
Audience: Although the publisher recommends this book for ages 3-5, it might be a little frightening to the younger concrete thinkers in this range. The story could be used with older children as well.
Summary: Laszlo is a little boy who is afraid of the dark. Dark lurks in all the usual places in Laszlo’s house: in his closet, behind the shower curtain, outside the large living room window, but most especially in the basement. One night the dark comes looking for Laszlo, and Laszlo gains a lot from their basement encounter, including a replacement light bulb for his bedroom nightlight.
Literary elements at work in the story: On the face of it, this is a bit of a creepy story. Snicket presents the reader with only two characters – the uptight little Laszlo, armed only with his flashlight, and the dark. Laszlo seems to be all alone in a creaky old house, and the dark is surely an active participant in the plot. The mood of fearfulness is enhanced by Klassen’s illustrations, with page after page of small islands of illuminated furniture in a great sea of black.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? Presumably Laszlo has a family, but the reader never meets any of them. His house is older, but it is not decrepit. Little else is revealed regarding other aspects of his life.
Theological Conversation Partners: The first and most obvious use of this story would be in conjunction with any of the scriptural references to fear. “Fear not!” is every angel’s opening line in Luke’s birth narrative (Luke 1:13; Luke 1:30; Luke 2:10). The dark never cautions Laszlo against being afraid, but the dark does demonstrate that there is light to be found in unexpected places. A more interesting conversation partner might be to help students see the dark in this story as a metaphor for God’s mystery. The dark in this book pursues Laszlo just as God pursues us. God comes to where we are and invites us into the very place we are afraid to be – in the dark basement of God’s mystery. Moses surely felt fear like this at the burning bush (Exodus 3:5-6). Then, with our knees knocking and our hearts pounding, God gives us just the light that we need. Snicket’s dark explains, “… without the dark, everything would be light, and you would never know if you needed a lightbulb.”
Faith Talk Questions:
- Why do you think that Laszlo is afraid of the dark?
- When are you afraid of the dark?
- The author says, “ …the dark is not afraid of you. That’s why the dark is always close by.” Why do you think that the dark wanted to stay close by Laszlo?
- What did the dark want to show to Laszlo in the basement?
- How might God be like the dark in this story?
- What do you think that God might want to show to you?
This review was written by regular contributor Beth Lyon-Suhring who serves as Director of Christian Education at the St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Suffolk, VA.
The Dark by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.