Who was scared of the dark? Thought there were monsters in their closet? Dreaded bedtime at one point? Answer: practically everyone. Battling shadows was a war we all figuratively fought when we were young, and one that our ancestors literally fought for eons before fire and electricity.
Now, far removed from the epochs of nightblind prey, we still confront the leftover fear, justifiably inventing monsters to fill the void in the darkness. Stories can be the smoothest approach for engaging children with the monsters they face, offering them an avenue for understanding and a path towards conquering the reality of bad feelings.
Enter: Emma Yarlett’s spectacular Orion and the Dark. Yarlett, the bestselling author of the Nibbles the Book Monster series, weaves a sweet story of friendship and courage that centers on Orion and his struggle to overcome his fear of the dark. All the while, he is flanked by a cheerful, intensely un-scary embodiment of the very thing he dreads.
Yarlett tackles each child’s specific fear with equal consideration. Orion and the Dark play dress-up in the basement, send fishing lines down the bathtub’s ominous drain, and take turns jumping on and underneath the bed. After, the pair walk through town and find explanations for every odd sound that emanates from the darkness, whether it be the snore of Orion’s slumbering dad, the cry of a neighbor’s newborn, the tumble of a trash can, or the rumblings of an airplane overhead. Each concern is met with a wry marriage of humor and understanding.
The most charming facet of this book, though, is definitely Yarlett’s characterization of the Dark. Illustrated as an amorphous blob, The Dark is anything but menacing. In fact, the only thing the Dark wants from Orion is acceptance. By turning Orion’s fear on its head, Yarlett shows her reader that sometimes the only way to conquer a fear is to befriend it.
So put away the monster-repelling spray and switch off the night light: Orion and the Dark is a child’s first step towards overcoming a fear of the dark.