The New York Times Book Review - Bruce Handy
Daniel Handler, writing as Lemony Snicket, does a wonderful job of…I was going to write "personifying the dark," but "thingifying" is more like it…The illustrations by Jon Klassen…are fully up to Handler's lovely-spooky conception, poetic and concrete in equal measure.
The Washington Post - Kristi Elle Jemtegaard
Lemony Snicket's succinct text is as deadpan as ever…What makes this book stand out above other books on childhood fears is the fact that Laszlo negotiates directly with the living, breathing darkand comes to terms with it in a way that children will understand intuitively. No lectures (or adults!) are needed. These cunningly designed illustrationswedges, cones and arcs of light floating in blacknessilluminate the story with impeccable grace.
Snicket and Klassen are an inspired pairing in this suspenseful take on childhood fear. Laszlo, a solemn boy in blue pajamas, is scared of the dark, and it's easy to see why. He lives in a house with â??a creaky roof, smooth, cold windows, and several sets of stairs.â? The floors are bare, the halls are empty, and the windows are uncurtained. And the dark in his house is not just any darkit has a will of its own. â??Sometimes the dark hid in the closet. Sometimes it sat behind the shower curtain,â? writes Snicket (13 Words). Klassen (This Is Not My Hat) constructs his spreads with quiet finesse, playing expanses of shadow and darkness off small, constricted areas of light, as the boy roams through the house. Still, Laszlo's fear does not translate into a look of terror; his dot eyes and straight-line mouth signal calm. Sometimes, he even talks to the dark (â??Hi, dark,â? he says down the basement stairs). One fateful night, though, the dark talks back, surrounding Laszlo as he lies in bed. Only the boy's face and hand, clutching his trusty flashlight, can be seen. The rest of the page is a sea of black. â??Laszlo,â? the dark says, â??I want to show you something.â? In the deliciously tense sequence that follows, the dark beckons Laszlo into the basement, pointing him toward a closed dresser drawer. Laszlo's flashlight illuminates only a small wedge of the basement stairwell; beyond his beam of light, the black closes in. The darkness is not just a condition, readers understand; it's an actual entity, palpable and breathing. At the moment Laszlo steps closest to the dresser, Snicket intervenes with a diabolically timed soliloquy on the philosophical need for creaky roofs, cold windows, and darkness, delivered at exactly the moment the fear of these things looms largest. â??Without a closet, you would have nowhere to put your shoes,â? he points out, as readers wait with bated breath to find out what lurks inside the dresser, â??and without the dark, everything would be light.â? In a final twistand a moment of uncharacteristic gentleness from Snicketthe dark offers Laszlo a drawerful of light bulbs that are just the right size for his nightlight. â??The dark kept on living with Laszlo, but it never bothered him again,â? Snicket concludes. While it might not combat fear of the dark, it's an ingenius introduction to horror moviestyle catharsis, and a memorable ride on the emotional roller coaster that great storytelling creates. Ages 36. Author's agent: Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency. Illustrator's agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Apr.)
* "An offbeat -- and spookily atmospheric -- approach to fear of the dark, with a creative story and high-impact artwork...an enjoyable thrill."
Library Media Connection
* "Readers are going to want to read this one over and over."
From the Publisher
New York Times Best Illustrated
2014 Charlotte Zolotow Award Winner
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
ALSC Notable Books for Children
*"With his command of language, tone, and pacing, Snicket creates the perfect antidote to a universal fear. Klassen's spare gouache and digital illustrations in a quiet black, brown, and white palette (contrasted with Laszlo's light blue footy pajamas and the yellow light bulb) are well suited for a book about the unseen. Using simple black lines and color contrasts to provide atmosphere and depth, Klassen captures the essence of Snicket's story."
The Horn Book (starred review)
*"In its willingness to acknowledge the darkness, and the elegant art of that acknowledgment, The Dark pays profound respect to the immediacy of childhood experiences."Booklist (starred review)
*"While it might not combat fear of the dark, it's an ingenius introduction to horror moviestyle catharsis, and a memorable ride on the emotional roller coaster that great storytelling creates."Publishers Weekly (starred review)
*"Snicket and Klassen present a picture book that tackles a basic childhood worry with suspense, a dash of humor, and a satisfying resolution."School Library Journal (starred review)
* "An offbeat and spookily atmospheric approach to fear of the dark, with a creative story and high-impact artwork...an enjoyable thrill."The Bulletin, starred review
* "Readers are going to want to read this one over and over."Library Media Connection, starred review"
Laszlo, though a new creation for this story, somehow seems satisfyingly familiar."Kirkus
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Laszlo is afraid of the dark that seems to live in his house. It's in a closet, behind the shower curtain, but mainly in the basement during the day. At night the dark spreads itself through the house. One night the dark comes up to Laszlo's bedroom. It wants to show him something downstairs. Laszlo has his flashlight as he follows the dark into the basement. The dark tells him to open the bottom drawer of a chest. There he finds light bulbs for a night-light. It's no longer dark in his room. Laszlo says, "Thank you." The dark doesn't bother him again. The digitally manipulated gouache paintings that illuminate the simple, brief text are almost like architectural drawings. Sharp edges define spaces, offering contrast between such light sources as the flashlight and the pitch-blackness. On the jacket/cover, the pajama-clad youngster is at the top of some stairs leading into a dense black that fills the rest; light yellow letters give us the title, author, and illustrator. This book may make the dark a more friendly character for those who fear him. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—Snicket and Klassen present a picture book that tackles a basic childhood worry with suspense, a dash of humor, and a satisfying resolution. Laszlo, clad in pajamas, is afraid of the dark, which spends most of the day in the basement but spreads itself throughout the boy's rambling home at night. Every morning, he opens the basement door, peeks down, and calls out, "Hi, dark," hoping that if he visits the dark in its room, it will not return the favor. However, when Laszlo's night-light burns out one evening, the dark does come to call, declaring in a voice as creaky as the house's roof, "I want to show you something." The youngster, who bravely shines his flashlight into the inky night, is slowly coaxed down to the basement and a forgotten-about chest of drawers ("Come closer… Even closer"). Here, Snicket keeps readers teetering on the edges of their seats, taunting them with a lengthy and convoluted aside. Finally, the boy is instructed to open the bottom drawer, where he finds… a supply of light bulbs. There's a sense of closure, as Laszlo comes to terms with the dark, which still lives in his home but never bothers him again. The understated illustrations keep the focus on the emotional context, showing a serious-faced protagonist, a stark setting, and shadow-filled corners. Faded hues contrast with the ominous blackness, providing visual punch and adding credence to the boy's fears. Fresh, kid-savvy, and ultimately reassuring.—Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal
Are you afraid of the dark? Laszlo is. The dark mostly keeps to the basement, but sometimes it hides in the closet or behind the shower curtain. Every morning Laszlo greets the dark when it is safely back in the basement, calling "Hi, dark," down the staircase. He hopes that this acknowledgement will keep it from coming to him in the night, when a night light illuminates his bedroom as he goes to sleep. He keeps a flashlight at the ready on his pillow, just in case. And one night, the dark does come--presumably the night light has gone out. Laszlo answers the dark's call to the basement, where he sees a small dresser. "Bottom drawer," the dark says, and inside he finds light bulbs. The next scene shows his bedroom now illuminated by the returned soft glow of the night light, and Laszlo no longer fears the dark. Klassen's artwork outshines the text, which, although poetic and begging to be read aloud, falters in its pacing and delivers an anticlimactic (if friendly) resolution to its initially creepy tone. The gouache-and-digital illustrations make the most of the references to light and dark, however, confining the palette to muted tones that contrast satisfyingly with the inky black. Laszlo, though a new creation for this story, somehow seems satisfyingly familiar. A lovely if uneven offering about a common childhood fear. (Picture book. 3-7)