Review Blog

Jun 07 2019

Lights out, Leonard by Josh Pyke

cover image

Illus. by Chris Nixon. Puffin, 2019. ISBN: 9780143793489.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Bedtime, Sleep, Fears, Families, Humour. Bedtime is a little fraught when Leonard, dressed in his wonderful pyjamas, refuses to have the lights turned off. He is not scared of the dark, he insists, but of the monsters that lurk there. A hairy scary, twelve legged, three headed creature with eight arms prompts him to ask his mother to leave the lights on. She gives him five minutes but the next time, dad comes to the bedroom door. This time a five nosed, seven tailed and eleven handed monster lurks, so dad gives him five minutes and goes to the kitchen to make a cup of tea.
Adult readers and children alike will instantly recognise the theme, that of finding it difficult to go to bed: either fear of the dark, fear of something hiding under the bed, or of a range of monsters waiting for the light to go out, are all very familiar to readers and listeners alike who will know Leonard and his parents' actions are common in many families. Each time his parents try to get him to bed, Leonard baulks, and a familiar cry rings out.
His parents, exhausted, give in and leave the light on in his room for the next few nights. but one day Leonard finds a new book on his bed, entitled, How to Frighten monsters.
Children will laugh out loud at the markers the author gives for scaring away monsters; from a minty breath to a tidy room, having bears on the bed, soft music and parental kisses, all instantly recognisable as things a child does before bedtime, underlining the routines a child has in the evening.
This lovely book, full of the demands and patience involved with family life, will resonate with all who open its pages, seeing within the illustrations the fear a child holds in the dark, and the frustration of the parents as they try to help their son overcome his fears.
The twist with the book is most endearing, summoning laughs from the audience as they see what mum and dad are aiming to do with their little book.
The sumptuous illustrations, done in the colours of the night: blue, black, grey, orange and white, show an arrangement of monsters lurking through keyholes, under the bed, near the wardrobe, using shapes and spaces to create what Leonard imagines he sees in the dark. Many of the delicious shapes crawling and slithering across the pages end with the most ravenous of teeth, again making readers laugh out loud at the preposterous images that scare Leonard, knowing full well that they see monsters as well.
This is a masterful book, beautifully told, with a wonderful twist when the parents create a how to get Leonard to bed book, using all the tools at their disposal to enable this will happen. And check out the font and use of white space, and the shadows and streams of light from the overhead light bulb, sky light and the moon.
Lots to talk about with kids: going to bed, routines, monsters and scary things, overcoming fear as well as illustrative techniques used in picture books to exceptional advantage. Teacher's notes are available.
Fran Knight

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