Books to make the dark a little less scary…

It is now dark when we wake. The sun no longer shines at bedtime. Winter is coming and that means the nights are drawing in. For some children, that can also mean anxiety surrounding bedtime. Our two girls have both, only just this week, decided nightlights are the new way forward. So, with that in mind, here is what we are reading in the tepee to help shine a light on the dark.

In the Darkness of the Night by Emily Rand (Tate)

We are often afraid of what we don’t know. Let’s face it, most small children haven’t spent much time out and about in the dark and most don’t have a real feel for what happens in the house once they are asleep (glass of wine and Game of Thrones, anyone?). Emily Rand beautifully illustrates the causes of the sounds that young children hear when tucked up in bed. She takes the reader through the sounds of home (dishes clanking while being washed in the sink, muffled voices and humming pipes), the sounds directly outside (screeching foxes and car doors slamming), and finally zooms out to sounds in the distance (siren sounds and the late train as it rumbles by). She also introduces children to the sounds they might hear in the early morning (birdsong, gurgling drains). By gently explaining what might otherwise allow imaginations to run wild, Rand reassures completely.

The Dark written by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Jon Klassen (Hachette)

What is the dark? It is absence. It is what we can not see and can not touch. It is all around us, it is always close by and it is not going away. In fact, “you might be afraid of the dark, but the dark is not afraid of you”. So, how do we learn to accept its presence as it “peeks around the corner and waits behind the door”? This is what Lazlo grapples with throughout this stunningly original work.

Lazlow is afraid of the dark. For the most part, he and the dark manage to live in the same house without issue. The dark spends most of its time in the basement and never comes to Lazlow’s bedroom. Until one night it did. This is a story of meeting fear with logic and reason and you know what? It works. The dark never bothered Lazlo again. I’m willing to bet The Dark will go along way toward helping your little one feel likewise.

The Night Box written by Louise Greig and illustrated by Ashling Lindsay (Egmont)

For everything that might seem scary about the night-time, there is an even longer list of what makes the night-time wondrous and magical. This is what Greig and Lindsay celebrate in The Night Box. Max is keeper of the night. It lives in “a box of midnight blue” in his bedroom. As Max turns the box’s key, “Up comes the lid…WOOSH! Day slips in as night sweeps out”. Night is not something to be feared. It is mischievous! And huge. “It spills like ink into the world”. It is gentle and brave and kind — and like the rhythmic, poetics and charming illustrations of this book, it is utterly enchanting.

About Stephanie Cummings

Stephanie Cummings is a former BBC Journalist sharing her lifetime love of children's literature and illustration with her two young daughters -- and now with you, too, through Two in a Tepee. Stephanie has an academic background at the undergraduate level in literature and has master's degrees in both anthropology (material and visual culture) and design. She started her professional life in an art gallery and ended up producing radio programmes for BBC Radio 4, before deciding to become a stay at home mum. She lives with her handsome husband (who is sometimes invited into the tepee) in leafy north London.

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