The Dark by Lemony Snicket Book Review

The month of October is upon us. We are fully into our lessons, teaching reading comprehension, how to write better sentences, paragraphs, research projects, etc. However, our students seem to have one thing on their mind and that is also that it is the month of Halloween. With this, I wanted to share The Dark by Lemony Snicket book review to give you something to help make it through this month.

Several times in the past week my students interrupted me in the middle of a lesson by raising their hand. Quickly, I smile because there is someone who is paying attention and wants to know more of the wonderous lesson I am teaching. Then I hear the magical words, “Is Halloween on a Monday or Friday?” 

So why should I fight this month and all of its pitfalls, but instead just embrace it? With this, I have chosen a quick and simple book that works so well with grades 4th through 7th. Our students may feel a childish picture book is beneath them. Nevertheless, I quickly inform my students that the same author of The Dark also wrote everyone’s favorite book series, A Series of Unfortunate Events. Once I say that, their ears perk up, and they want to know more.

Not only is The Dark a fun story to share, but it is also full of examples of personification, primal fear, and a deep need to conquer evil. Plus, it is adorable for your older students to remember their childhood when everything was so fearful during October, especially the dark.

The Dark is about a young lad named Lazslo, who is terrified of the dark. He avoids “the dark” as it mainly hangs out in the basement. Then, one night “the dark” is in his room as his nightlight bulb loses its spark. Lazslo, the young lad, must come face-to-face with his fears of “the dark,” while Lemony Snicket personifies “the dark” into a friendly being. This book contains a plethora of personification examples. 

Personification Examples

Personification is when something other than a human is given human characteristics in a story, paragraph, or sentence.

Examples:

The moon winked at the owl when the dark clouds wandered past. 

In this sentence, the moon winked at the owl. Of course, the moon can’t wink because it is definitely an inanimate object. As well, clouds can’t wander. Wandering is when one walks or moves in a leisurely, casual, or aimless way. Clouds may seem like they wander, but of course they too are inanimate objects that float or travel where the wind moves them.

Another example is from Patricia MacLachlan’s book, My Friend Earth.

“Under the white, the silent seed is cradled in the dark soil. Watching.

In this beautifully constructed sentence, one envisions a seed cradled in the dark by the earth’s soil as if the earth were its mother, gently clutching its child.

The last example is from The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein.

“And then one day the boy came back and the tree shook with joy.”

Yes. These books were originally written for children. However, until older students journey back and study the writing techniques of these magnificent writers, these books haven’t been fully appreciated as they should. 

As C. S. Lewis said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” With that, I totally agree.

Author: Lemony Snicket, “The Dark

Lemony Snicket is a pseudonym for the writer, Daniel Handler. He was born on February 28, 1970, in California. He is married to a book illustrator, and they have one child named, Otto. Lemony Snicket is best known for his novel series, A Series of Unfortunate Events, which was made into a movie by Nickelodeon and a television show on Netflix. 

Daniel Handler graduated with a B.A. from Wesleyan University in 1992. He has always loved to read. One of his favorite authors was Roald Dahl, writer of James and the Giant Peach. Daniel Handler has published several books for adults as well. He is a seasoned accordion player and has played in a couple of bands.

Daniel Handler created the author Lemony Snicket as a type of additional character in his A Series of Unfortunate Events novels. Lemony Snicket breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audience, using a rare 2nd person point of view. He regularly explains difficult vocabulary, foreshadows events, and directly interacts with the audience based on the story. Lemony Snicket does not do this in The Dark, something he is known for. One of the funniest clips of Lemony Snicket explaining is below. If only he had created more for all of figurative language.

The Dark was the winner of the Annual Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing of a picture book writing in 2014. The Charlotte Zolotow Award is awarded annually to the best picture book of the year. The picture book must be published in the United States. The Charlotte Zolotow Award is awarded by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, a children’s literature library of the School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Illustrator: Jon Klassen, “The Dark

Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen illustrated The Dark. Jon Klassen is a Canadian writer and illustrator of children’s books. In 2011, the book, I Want My Hat Back, won the American 2013 Caldecott Medal and the English equivalent, Kate Greenaway Medal. The Dark made history an illustrator won both awards for the same book in the same year.

Another connection for your students is the fact that Klassen is an animator. His animations appear in the movies, Kung Fu Panda and the spine tingler, Coraline. I am sure just telling your students that bit of information would definitely peak their interest.

Klassen was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and raised in the Niagara Falls area. Klassen studied animation at Sheridan College. Later, he moved to Los Angeles after graduation. Please visit his website for examples of his work. I am sure your budding artist would love to see what he has accomplished.

The illustrations in The Dark takes us along on a journey of following a young lad through his enormous old house. As we follow along, we see the surroundings of the home through the boy’s viewpoint. By seeing the dark through his viewpoint, we see it as he sees it. Shadows around every corner, dark stairs leading to the basement, and the dark waiting for him at every turn.

To enhance this book, you may talk with your students of the importance of illustrations. Illustrations play a huge part of setting the mood of a story. Light and shadow is definitely one thing that Klassen did an excellent job with.

To read more about creating the mood of a story with illustrations, please visit…

The Dark by Lemony Snicket Activities, Personification, and Writing Project

Our activities will take you from beginning to the end with the reading of Lemony Snicket’s Award Winning story, The Dark, to thoroughly teaching your students all about personifications by helping them create their own story concentrating on this important figurative language element. These activities will give your students perfect examples and activities using personification and how to use this figurative language element in their writing through our activities, graphic organizers, and writing project.

Conclusion

If you want to grab your student’s attention this October, and you want to excite them about writing as well, please grab a copy of The Dark. Written by the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events and illustrated by one of the animators of the movie Coraline, it is sure to grab their attention. In addition, they will be immersed in the element of personification in a whole new spooky way.

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Want more? Click over to our other blog post, How to Teach Writing with Lemony Snicket.

How to Teach Writing with Lemony Snicket

“All the secrets of the world are contained in books. Read at your own risk.” ― Lemony Snicket

Lemony Snicket knows just how important reading is. Daniel Handler, the author behind the pseudonym/character of Lemony Snicket, is known widely for his novels, A Series of Unfortunate Events. He has also written several picture books for children under the pseudonym of Lemony Snicket. These include The Dark, Goldfish Ghost, The Bad Mood and the Stick, and The Lump of Coal.

In A Series of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snicket regularly breaks the fourth wall and talks to the reader, using a rare second-person point of view. Lemony Snicket is seen as an additional character and narrator created by Daniel Handler. Snicket explains complex vocabulary, foreshadows events, tells the reader about himself, and directly interacts with the audience based on the story. This is what Lemony Snicket is known for. 

No wonder students and teachers alike enjoy his books. His unique way of writing, coupled with his dynamic and eccentric stories, make for a powerful combination in children’s literature.

Mentor Text is a book or literary work that serves as an example of writing for students to emulate. A mentor text is writing that is studied for author’s craft, word choice, and other skills to help students learn how to effectively write. 

Lemony Snicket is a wonderful author to utilize for mentor text in the classroom. 

Point of View

His books are the perfect examples of teaching point of view, particularly the rare second-person point of view. 

Although A Series of Unfortunate Events can be seen as a third-person omniscient point of view as all the characters’ feelings and thoughts are explained, it is also second-person as Lemony Snicket talks to the reader directly. By speaking to the reader, students gain a clearer view, explanations, and another perspective, all within the same book. 

For example: “It is useless for me to describe to you how terrible Violet, Klaus, and even Sunny felt in the time that followed. If you have ever lost someone very important to you, then you already know how it feels, and if you haven’t, you cannot possibly imagine it.” -The Bad Beginning

“If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book. In this book, not only is there no happy ending, there is no happy beginning and very few happy things in the middle.” – The Bad Beginning

“I don’t know if you know this, but first impressions are often entirely wrong.” -The Bad Beginning

“For instance, if you are a bank robber – although I hope you aren’t – you might go to the bank a few days before you planned to rob it.” -The Bad Beginning 

Students can see how Lemony Snicket uses a second-person point of view in an interesting and unique way, and they can incorporate this into their writing. 

Word Choice

Word choice is an important part of writing. The words we choose as writers make our stories interesting and dynamic, drawing in the reader. Lemony Snicket has a very unique word choice. His word choice is often a mixture of sarcasm, humor, and enlightenment. Snicket, or Handler, is an effective writer utilizing precise language to portray the story. Students will become inspired to write in their own individualistic way.

Here are some wonderful word choice examples:

“The book was long, and difficult to read, and Klaus became more and more tired as the night wore on. Occasionally his eyes would close. He found himself reading the same sentence over and over. He found himself reading the same sentence over and over. He found himself reading the same sentence over and over.” -The Bad Beginning 

“If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats.” -The Wide Window

Figurative Language

Writers use figurative language to help readers better understand what is being described in a relatable way. Figurative language, from similes to metaphors, from onomatopoeia to personification, is utilized as a type of word choice that helps bring the reader deeper into the story. Lemony Snicket has a penchant for unique figurative language. 

Here are some examples of similes: 

“Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd little waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don’t always like.” -The Slippery Slope

“People aren’t either wicked or noble. They’re like chef’s salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.” -The Grim Grotto

“Strange as it may seem, I still hope for the best, even though the best, like an interesting piece of mail, so rarely arrives, and even when it does it can be lost so easily.” -The Beatrice Letters

“A library is like an island in the middle of a vast sea of ignorance, particularly if the library is very tall and the surrounding area has been flooded.” – Horseradish

Lemony Snicket loves to use another type of figurative language: personification.

For example: “This is my knife. It is very sharp and very eager to hurt you.” – The Reptile Room

In fact, he wrote a whole picture book on the concept. The Dark is about a young boy scared of…you guessed it…the dark. Dark is personified throughout this book and even speaks to the main character.

Dark is also a cute picture book to read around Halloween for upper elementary to middle school students. We have a whole unit on it, with emphasis on teaching personification among other skills, for grades 4-7. Check it out now! 

We also have figurative language posters that my be helpful to you. Check it out here!

Grab yours today!

Mood

Writers use word choice to create a mood. The mood is how a reader feels while encountering a book. It is the emotional response that writers try to get readers to elicit through specific word choices.

Lemony Snicket is outstanding at this, especially in A Series of Unfortunate Events. As he uses a second-person point of view, he sets certain moods for the reader. One of the best pieces of writing I’ve seen to evoke the mood of deep sadness is as follows: 

“The way sadness works is one of the strange riddles of the world. If you are stricken with a great sadness, you may feel as if you have been set aflame, not only because of the enormous pain, but also because your sadness may spread over your life, like smoke from an enormous fire. You might find it difficult to see anything but your own sadness, the way smoke can cover a landscape so that all anyone can see is black. You may find that if someone pours water all over you, you are damp and distracted, but not cured of your sadness, the way a fire department can douse a fire but never recover what has been burnt down.” -The Bad Beginning

Students can read Lemony Snicket or Handler’s books cover to cover to truly understand how his word choice effectively creates mood, but even well-picked quotes can show students how to evoke a mood in their own writing. 

Conclusion

As a teacher, I have used A Series of Unfortunate Events as read-aloud books, one after the other. We would pause and discuss the author’s craft of Lemony Snicket, aka Daniel Handler. By utilizing his writing and focusing on specific quotes, students can see isolated examples of precise skills they can use in their own writing. One of my favorite college professors always said, “The more a student reads, the better writer they will be.” I highly recommend that students read Lemony Snicket’s novels and picture books to be inspired to create their own unique and wonderful writing. 

How to Write a Biography: Upper Elementary to Middle School

Writing a biography can be a daunting task. When students hear the assignment of writing a biography, they may have thoughts of long, boring essays or a tedious 10-page book report. There are various ways to tackle writing a biography, and they can even be fun in the process! Let’s look at some less intimidating ways to get your kiddos to write a biography, whether in elementary or middle school.

Step 1: Read a Biography

The first step for students before writing a biography is to read one. They need to see a real-life example before tackling their own biography assignment. Elementary students can read biography picture books or Who Was? biography novels. Biography picture books are especially interesting to students as the splendid pictures bring the person to life. 

Here are some picture books we recommend for younger students: 

I Am Rosa Parks by Brad Meltzer

The Girl who Thought in Pictures by Julia Finley Mosca

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne

Upper elementary students love the Who Was? novel series. These books are more challenging, contain some pictures, and are age-appropriate. We recommend:

Who Was? Anne Frank by Anne Abramson

Who Were? The Tuskegee Airmen by Sherri L. Smith

Who Was? Selena by Max Bisantz

Middle school-aged students can read a variety of biographies from sixth graders reading Who Was? to advanced readers conquering even adult biographies. Some biographies or autobiographies my middle school students have read and loved are: 

I Am Malala by Malala Youfsazai

Gifted Hands The Ben Carson Story by Gregg Lewis

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland

Step 2: Research a Person

Once students have read a biography to gain an understanding of what one looks like and how it is organized, as well as more about the person they are learning about, they can complete research from the biography or autobiography. A simple graphic organizer to help students organize crucial information would suffice. Important information that the student should gather from their book includes: 

  • Birthdate and Birthplace
  • Death Date and Place If Deceased
  • Childhood/Family
  • Education
  • Adult Family
  • Major Accomplishments
  • Major Obstacles
  • Fun Facts
  • Lessons we can learn from this person’s life

Step 3: How to Write a Biography Tips

As a teacher, you can provide choices for students or provide a project students can tackle. Some biography projects require students to write a biography in a different format than a typical essay.

Paper Bag Biography

For elementary grades, a paper bag biography book report is an interesting way to create a biography. Once students have read their biography or autobiography, they color the front of the paper bag with a picture of the person as well as display the person’s name. On the back of the paper bag is written the major accomplishments, obstacles, and a lesson learned from this person’s life.

On one side of the bag is written fun facts and on the other side is written basic information such as birthdate, birthplace, family, death date, etc. Inside the paper bag, students place varying objects that symbolize the life of the person and explain or write about them. 

Cereal Box Biography

This same concept can be completed with a cereal box. Students would utilize construction paper and glue over the cereal box instead. They can create a cute name for their cereal that coincides with the person they’re learning about as well. For instance, a biography about Sugar Ray Leonard, a professional boxer, could become Sugar Rays on a cereal box biography report. 

Pizza Box Biography

Speaking of food, a pizza box biography report is something I have utilized for years in the classroom. It combines creativity, art, and writing to display a biography. A simple Google search can give you tons of templates, instructions, and student sample pictures to choose from. I’m not certain of the original creator of this project, but it is amazing!

Students decorate the outside and inside cover of a pizza box with pictures and facts of their person. Next, they create a pizza out of construction paper and each slice displays important information. They can use their creativity to decorate each slice with toppings. Some students create a flap that goes over their slice of information and on the flap are toppings they’ve drawn such as mushrooms, pepperoni, and peppers. I am always impressed with how students use their creativity to design elaborate pizzas!

Here is the link to a FREE pizza box biography book report guideline I have used for years. 

*Disclaimer: It is a compilation of information gathered from other reports found online. It is not my intellectual property.*

MLA Biography Essay

I have used the pizza box biography report for sixth graders, but as students move into seventh and eighth grade, there is a huge focus on learning to write an MLA essay. Because of this, I require students to write a biography essay or book report. Using a detailed template, students write their biographies. Each paragraph is thoroughly explained and chunked to display the life of the person they’re investigating. Here is a simple template of how I have seventh-grade students organize their biography essays: 

1st paragraph contains: Title of your biography and the author’s name. The book is a biography of __________, who was born on (Date) ______________ in (Birthplace) ____________________. Why did you choose to read this book? Write a brief summary of their well-known accomplishments.

2nd, 3rd, 4th Paragraph contains: A summary of their life. Make sure their life is in sequence. Tell of major life accomplishments, major disappointments, and major obstacles they faced. Tell of their childhood, adulthood, etc.

5th Paragraph contains: What is the most interesting fact about this person? Explain why. How would you describe this person? If you could meet your person, what questions would you ask him or her? Why? Would you recommend this biography to a friend? Why or why not?

6th Paragraph: Conclusion paragraph. What are the major life lessons a reader can learn from this person’s life? 

Step 4: Publish through Technology

Students can create biography presentations by using Google Slides, all the while utilizing pictures, quotes, and thematic decor to make their project come to life. Slidesgo.com is an amazing template resource in which students can make their presentations fit a theme, and be a bit more aesthetically pleasing and be exciting. 

Furthermore, Canva has a plethora of resources students can use to create biographies, from a standard presentation to infographics to creating a eBook. Canva is an awesome resource. It contains varying fonts, pre-loaded graphics, and the ability to upload pictures online. Canva has become a favorite tool of our students here lately!

Conclusion

Writing a biography can be challenging, but in a great way! By reading biographies such as picture books to novels, this readily prepares students to conquer biography writing. By presenting options such as craftivities or a detailed template for an essay, students can feel interested and ready to tackle the world of biographies.

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