Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Dark

Title: The Dark
Author: Lemony Snicket
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April, 2013
Genre/Format: Fantasy/Picture Book
Goodreads Summary: Laszlo is afraid of the dark. 

The dark lives in the same house as Laszlo. Mostly, though, the dark stays in the basement and doesn't come into Lazslo's room. But one night, it does.

This is the story of how Laszlo stops being afraid of the dark. 

With emotional insight and poetic economy, two award-winning talents team up to conquer a universal childhood fear.

What Kellee Thinks: What a great narrative about facing your fears! Jon Klassen's illustrations added a whole new level to the story that only exists because of his talents. The use of color within the illustrations adds tremendously to the mood and really sets the tone for the book. Snicket's story captions the illustrations taking us into Laszlo's mind which is very symbolic of many children's minds when they are dealing with a fear. Though I felt that there was one choppy part in the middle of the book where I wish the text was broken up differently, the book is definitely a wonderful conversation starter to discuss fears and how to overcome them.  The most powerful aspect of this story was the personification of the Dark. It definitely is a phenomenal mentor text for discussing this element of literature and would be a great introduction to more complex text. 
What Jen Thinks: I so enjoy seeing more and more from Jon Klassen! Listening to him talk about his work when he was here for a visit in the fall was amazing. I often think that the artwork in books can get overlooked. Sure, I recognize when artwork is great in a book but I never thought as intensely about illustrations or artwork as I did when I heard John Klassen speak. Listening to Mark Teague and David Small speak about their artwork at the Anderson's Children's Literature Breakfasts also was very eye-opening. There are so many detailed nuances of the artwork that the illustrators take into account that I would never even realize is something they think about. Things like the colors that are chosen, the way the illustrations move through a book like they are progressing towards the right, the use of certain elements that are present throughout a book to demonstrate a passage of time or used as a point of reference for the reader. I think it's easy to take these things for granted as a reader because the illustrator makes the artwork happen so beautifully that we don't even notice. The trick is stopping to notice and to see how the illustrations truly match and enhance the text of a book. It strikes me that we can talk to students about the illustrator's purpose as much as the author's purpose and help them notice how the illustrator has to make very specific and conscious decisions about the artwork much like the author does with the text.
     In this book especially, Klassen has to bring the dark itself to life. It reminds me a little bit of Markus Zusak and how he personifies Death in The Book Thief. Both of these elements seem so dark and foreboding but the books help readers see them in a different light. I love the seemingly dark, creepy mood of this book which I'm starting to link with Klassen more and more. It seems that he relates to Edward Gorey and his work quite a bit and I am seeing this more and more. It just makes Jon Klassen infinitely more intriguing.
     Because we do have a great collection of illustrated (and authored) work by Jon Klassen, I think it would be great to look at his contributions as an artist/illustrator and really compare and contrast his work in different books. Jon also worked on the animated movie of the book Coraline and that book and it's movie could also be discussed. I can see how this would be an amazing discussion to have with older students and to tie into work in analyzing an author/illustrator's work. 
Read Together: Grades K - 3 or Grades 9 - 12
Read Alone: Grades 2 - 5 or Grades 9 - 12
Read With: I Want My Hat Back and This is Not my Hat by Jon Klassen, The Black Rabbit by Philippa Leathers, The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman, The House Held Up By Trees by Ted Kooser, Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, Coraline by Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gory, Stitches by David Small, The Night Bookmobile and Her Fearful Symmetry (adult) by Audrey Niffenegger
Snatch of Text: "Laszlo was afraid of the dark. The dark lived in the same house as Laszlo, a big place with a creaky roof, smooth, cold windows, and several sets of stairs." (p. 2-5)
Mentor Text for: Mood, Tone, Personification
Writing Prompts: What is something you are afraid of? Have you tried to face this fear? How so? If not, how could you safely face this fear? 
Topics Covered: Fears, Courage, Confidence
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