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 is when something other than a human is given human characteristics in a story, paragraph, or sentence.
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.
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.
Want more? Click over to our other blog post, How to Teach Writing with Lemony Snicket.