Written and Illustrated by Emma Yarlett
Templar Books, 2014
My name is Orion and I guess you could say I am scared of a lot of things.
The plot in a nutshell: A boy makes friends with the Dark.
Of all the things that scare Orion, the dark is the worst. One night, he can’t take it anymore and he yells at the dark to go away. Instead, the dark coalesces into a shape and comes into Orion’s room. Orion, remembering his manners, introduces himself and shakes the Dark’s hand. The Dark takes Orion around the scariest parts of the house and shows him how they are all pretty cool places. Then he shows him the sources of all those little noises and they all turn out to be nothing scary at all. Then the Dark takes him way up into the night sky where it is darkest of all. Orion realizes that Dark is his friend and he can’t be afraid of his friend. As the sun comes up, the Dark begins to fade and they say goodbye, but the Dark promises to never be far away.
Author/illustrator Emma Yarlett crams this book with so many details that some pages are almost an overload for your senses. Orion is a very likeable character, so right away you feel for him and his fear of the dark. I’m a fairly skittish person myself, with lots of irrational fears, so I was sympathizing with poor Orion the whole way through. When the Dark comes into his room, he falls back on manners, which is really cool. It’s almost as though the whole thing is so overwhelming that all he has left to help him cope are the basic fundamental rules he’s learned. (I tend to fall back on humor, which isn’t always a wise choice.)
The digital artwork in this story elevates it from a simple story to a complex story, sometimes appearing to be told through observational entries in a journal. There are times when the multiple drawings and written text comments get a little chaotic on some pages, making them seem difficult to read. But the gorgeous blue and green colors of the night sky are really beautiful, especially when contrasted with Orion’s orange pajamas. And there are a couple of pages on which the Dark’s arm actually reaches out of the page to touch Orion on the opposite page and the effect works beautifully in each instance. I recommend this one for anyone, but especially for those with fearful little ones.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that learning to like something you’re afraid of means you’ll never have to be afraid of it again.