Book Review: The Dark by Lemony Snicket

Laszlo is afraid of the dark. The dark is not afraid of Laszlo.

Laszlo lives in a house. The dark lives in the basement.

One night, the dark comes upstairs to Laszlo’s room, and Laszlo goes down to the basement.

This is the story of how Laszlo stops being afraid of the dark.

My Rating:  5 cupcakes

The Dark is an imaginative tale that perfectly explains why there is no reason for anyone – especially young children – to be afraid of the dark.

Snicket personifies the dark, but not in the way that one would expect; instead of a sinister, terrifying being, the dark is welcoming, kind, and wise. It is the dark that comes to visit Lazlo, and the dark who teaches Lazlo a valuable lesson: without the dark, everything would be light, and you would never know if you needed a new lightbulb. This lesson, as the dark explains, does not just apply to darkness; it refers overcoming anything, and is a lesson that even I occasionally need to be reminded about. You can guarantee that if my future children are afraid of the dark, this will be the book to help them overcome that fear.

Why I Love The Paper Bag Princess

I was going through my old children’s books the other day to make room on my bookshelf for new books when I came across The Paper Bag Princess and, naturally, I had to read it. It was one of my favourite stories when I was younger, but I couldn’t quite remember why. Was it the illustrations? The storyline? The dragon? All of those contributed to my enjoyment of the story, but the main reason I loved it was, in fact, Princess Elizabeth herself.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the story, it goes like this:

Princess Elizabeth is engaged to be married to Prince Ronald when a dragon attacks the castle and kidnaps her fiancé. Left with only a paper bag for clothing, Elizabeth tracks down the dragon and tricks him into falling asleep. Instead of expressing joy at his rescue, Ronald is displeased with Elizabeth’s appearance and tells her to come back when she looks like “a real princess.” Elizabeth replies that he may look like a real prince but he’s really just “a bum,” so it comes as no surprise that that they don’t get married after all.

The story itself has so many important messages. I love that The Paper Bag Princess flips the princess stereotype on its head and teaches young women that they don’t always have to be the damsel in distress; they can do the rescuing, too. It also reminds us that vanity can be our downfall — whether we lose our lunch, like the dragon did, or lose the girl, like the prince did.

Elizabeth is such an excellent role model for young girls (and those of us who are slightly older but still love reading children’s books). She’s brave, smart, and resilient, and shows that physical strength isn’t necessary to defeat even the toughest enemies, whether these dragons are real or of the proverbial variety. She understands that character is more important than appearance, and that you shouldn’t settle for someone who doesn’t appreciate you — you deserve someone who loves you for who you are, flaws and all.

It’s safe to say that I’ll be dressing up as Princess Elizabeth for Halloween this year, and this story will definitely be read to all of the children that I encounter. Okay, maybe not all the children… but the ones in my family and the ones that I babysit will certainly be exposed to it.

On a slightly unrelated note, The Paper Bag Princess gets bonus points in my eyes for inspiring this song, which is rather cute: