Come on, people, hasn’t the man won enough? Wasn’t his acceptance speech so wonderful that he could never ever be improved upon? Haven’t I already reviewed just about every book Klassen has written? Do I really have to talk about this one?
Okay, I will.
Laszlo is afraid of the dark. (So afraid that he has his flashlight handy on the first spread; a guy can’t be too prepared, ya’ know.) The personified dark lives in Laszlo’s big house and is ready to assert itself in closets, behind shower curtains and, of course, in the basement. At night, the dark was everywhere, but during the day, it confined itself to the basement. He speaks to the dark each morning and makes a plan to visit it, thinking that perhaps a little visit to the dark’s room would mean the dark wouldn’t visit him in his room.
One night, the dark visits the little boy and invites him to the basement. “‘I want to show you something,’ said the dark.” Now this invitation is a tad creepy, especially for those of us who have lived on this planet for a long time and have read too many V. C. Andrews novels and seen too many scary movies. But, armed with his flashlight and clad in his blue jammies, Laszlo looks for the dark and finally dares to walk down the steps to the basement, where he finds what the dark wants to show him.
Klassen’s illustrations are done in gouache and digitally manipulated. There is a lot of delicious black here from the pitch black endpapers to the lines of the staircases, the seams in the hardwood floors, and even the lines on Laszlo’s quilt and bedframe. So many straight lines too! The near-black page where Laszlo is in bed with his flashlight provides such a dramatic moment, one I cannot get out of my mind. A bit of his face is missing under the blanket and his little hand and
weapon flashlight look so fragile as the dark utters his name.
And there is nary a knitting needle nor a hat nor a bear in sight!
Now, I do have a quibble. (The “quibble” is a time-honored part of any Caldecott or Notables discussion.) In this case, my quibble is actually a question, and not one of those I-already-know-the-answer-and-I-am-just-being-clever-questions either. If you have the book, turn to the page where Laszlo looks super tiny on the far left hand of the spread, at the top of the stairs. The flashlight is doing a grand job. Now, turn the page. The top of the flashlight is yellow (meaning it is working), but the giant beam of light is gone. The beam of light is absent upon the page turns. That doesn’t make sense to me. Can someone explain it?
I LOVE that that flashlight never appears again — letting us know that Laszlo is no longer afraid of the dark. Indeed, he is able to sleep without it, play without it and visit the dark without it! So satisfying.
I know someone really smart out there is going to be able to explain the mystery of the missing beam for my little brain. Usually, I rely on my second graders for explanations, but they are equally befuddled.