Sunday, August 31, 2008

Twilight Intruder: Darkness Slipped In by Ella Burfoot

Fear of the dark is an almost universal anxiety for young children at one time or another. Probably a carry-over survival impulse from early human history, children often struggle to find a way to control the uneasy feeling that loss of light brings.

Ella Burfoot's appealing picture book Darkness Slipped In shows a spunky little girl who deftly puts herself in control of the quirky figure of Darkness which slips into her bedroom as the sun begins to set.

Daisy was thinking of a game to play
When Darkness slipped in at the end of the day.
He came in through the window
And spread out on the floor,
While Daisy danced and laughed and played,
Then danced and laughed some more.

Daisy pretends not to notice Darkness as he begins to fill the room, until suddenly she grabs his wrist and forces him to "dance a funky twist"--the beginning of a companionable evening in which they share cake and lemonade and seem ready to dance the night away. Always in control of the relationship, though, Daisy knows when it's time to bring the merriment to an end.

But when they're tired and sleepy,
Daisy switches off the light.
And Daisy knows that Darkness knows
It's time to say good night.

Burfoot's very creative use of color contrast--shiny black with round white eyes for Darkness, blond Daisy and her toy rabbit accented with bright splashes of hot pink and yellow--provide a comforting balance of power between the light and dark. With Daisy securely in control of the action AND the light switch, youngsters who at first may find Darkness a bit off putting will be reassured that fears of the dark are totally manageable. A eye-catching take on an old subject, Ellen Burfoot's book provides a new way to personify and demystify the nighttime.

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