Darkness has different meanings to different people, especially children. Many can relate to being afraid of the dark, and there are many children’s books out there to help kids work through that. But other books celebrate the wonder of the darkness, and those tend to be the ones that I am drawn to. Perhaps it is because I have many childhood memories of some kind of nighttime adventure or excursion with my parents, ranging from catching fireflies on the campground or nightcrawlers by moonlight or starting a canoeing or boating trip in the pre-dawn hours. There was excitement in the air as I ventured into an unknown world that was normally only present when I was in bed.
Here are a few titles that explore the darkness in various ways:
Night World by Mordicai Gerstein. 9780316188227. 2015. Gr. PS-1
A little boy’s cat wakes him in the dark of night, wanting to go outside. With everyone sleeping, and the darkness everywhere, the world seems like a very different place. The boy experiences a whole new world outside…the night world. He marvels at the lack of color in flowers and the shadows cast by different backyard animals. But soon, the nocturnal animals scatter as the sky begins to lighten and the night world is transformed into color when the sun rises.
This one celebrates the shadowy world of night; Gerstein’s beautiful black and white illustrations that later burst with color are very visually pleasing.
George in the Dark by Madeline Valentine. 9780449813355. 2014. Gr. PS-2.
George is a typical energetic boy, zooming around the playground, climbing trees, even trying the legendary “loop over the top of the swingset” move. So, in other words…he’s fearless. But not when nighttime falls. Darkness reduces him to a trembling mess. Normally he has his bear to comfort him throughout the ordeal, but on this night, George is all tucked into bed and Bear is all the way across the room. George has to go outside his comfort zone and venture out of bed to get Bear, learning that maybe darkness isn’t all that bad.
Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen (ill.). 9780316187480. 2013. Gr. PS-2.
Darkness is scary in this book as well, but there is a twist here: Darkness is personified. It lives in the basement, in the closet, and now it is coming into Laszlo’s room. With the excellent pairing of Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen, you know that there is bound to be unconventional storytelling, and The Dark delivers. They manage to make the initial idea of darkness scary enough, but not too scary. Maybe Laszlo just needs to get to know The Dark a little bit to not be so scared? That is true of a lot of unknowns in life, and is one of the many ways this title can be discussed and shared with kids.
Here are a couple more well-known older titles that are favorites of mine, and ones that I think of as modern classics, especially when thinking about how we can celebrate the experiences only night can bring:
Night Driving by John Coy and Peter McCarty (ill.). 9780805067088. 1996. Gr. PS-2.
House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson and Beth Krommes (ill.). 9780618862443. 2008. Gr. K-3.