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Lemony Snicket guides kids through The Dark, and makes dads cool

Detail of a page from The Dark by Lemony Snicket

The Dark
Lemony Snicket
HarperCollins Canada

It's a strange thing to want your taste validated by a six-year-old, especially when that six-year-old is your son. To me, Lemony Snicket, best known for his novels A Series of Unfortunate Events, is the coolest kids writer alive. I wanted my son to agree, because if he thought Snicket was cool, it would kind of mean he thought I was cool. What modern father doesn't want that? So it was with great trepidation that I sat down to read him The Dark, written by Snicket and beautifully illustrated by Jon Klassen.

The story is about Laszlo, a little boy who is afraid of the dark. One night, right after the bulb in his nightlight burns out, the Dark comes into his room and speaks to him, persuades Laszlo to follow him down to the basement. Klassen's illustrations work perfectly, sharp lines surrounded by a sea of black ink. The ending is funny, not sinister, but getting there is creepy, and that's what makes this book amazing.

Snicket's decision to give the Dark not only a voice but a personality really resonated with my son. There was a moment in the middle where Phoenix's eyes got big, and for a second I didn't know if I should keep reading. I did and I'm glad. So is he. It's easy to forget that even if you're 6, reading should provoke strong emotions, that the "lit" in kids lit is short for literature. It doesn't hurt either that my son thinks I'm a little cooler for having read this to him.

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Andrew Kaufman's novel Born Weird was just short-listed for the Stephen Leacock Medal For Humour.

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