Happy Monday! This week, I’m trying out a new segment I’ll call BOOK BATTLES! Every Monday, I hope to compare and contrast two different books with similar topics, themes, characters, illustrations, or whatever. I haven’t really nailed down the rules yet. I’ll discuss both books, weigh the merits and flaws and then pick a winner. There will be no ties. To quote Mighty Ducks 3, ties are like kissing your brother. So, LET THE BATTLE BEGIN!
I already regret this idea. Both of these books are ones that I really like, and deciding is going to be kind of difficult. Let’s compare them first.
Both books are essentially about the same thing. The main character, a little boy, is afraid of the dark. The dark makes itself friendly to the boy, and the boy realizes that the dark is actually kind of cool. Plot wise, they are similar enough that they could have the same thing written on their side flap.
Another thing they kind of have in common is something that was brought to my attention by a six year old when I was reading The Dark to a class. “WHERE ARE THE PARENTS?” They are completely absent from The Dark. Lazlo seems to be completely alone in a big,spooky house. Orion’s mom is mentioned in Orion and the Dark, and we even hear her tell her son goodnight, but seriously? How about a tuck in, Mom? You know your son’s afraid of everything. He’s visibly shaking here. What could you possibly be doing that you can’t stop for a minute and tuck your son in? My guess is Netflix binging, but we can’t know for sure.
Either way, neither Lazlo nor Orion get much help in facing their fears in the parents department. It’s something they have to do alone.
The differences are where the battle will be won or lost, so let’s see how the books differ.
I love Jon Klassen, he’s one of my favorites, if not my very favorite illustrator, so The Dark had a slight edge from the start. There’s no denying that The Dark is spookier, which is what it was going for. Orion and the Dark is more cartoonish and friendly, but that’s what it was going for as well. Both books pull off what they set out to do. My students especially love it when the Dark reaches out to grab Orion’s hand, and when he embraces him. Both of those illustrations were very well done. While both books are lovely, and very well illustrated, I have to give this round to Klassen. The Dark is simply a darker book. It’s dark in a very beautiful way.
As a Read Aloud
I’ve had groups love both of these books. The Dark lends itself to a very spooky telling. I love using a very raspy, whispery voice for the Dark. The Dark in Orion comes out bubbly, and very friendly when I read it. The older kids, 3rd-5th grade seemed to respond better to The Dark. The younger groups K5-2nd seemed to like Orion better. I’ll call the read aloud an even match.
The Student Reviewer
I had a 5th grader, one of the best readers in the school, sit down and read both books, and give me her opinion. I thought for sure she was going to pick The Dark, since the older kids seemed to like it better, but she shocked me by picking Orion.
Me: You liked Orion, better?
Her: Yeah. I liked that the Dark was really friendly in that book.
So I guess this round goes to Orion.
In the end, it isn’t as close as I thought. The Dark is simply a better book. Orion is very good. I just ordered a copy for my kids, but personally, I like a scary book, and The Dark is pretty darn spooky. Orion is a charming, fun read, but Orion’s fear is never actually transferred to the reader like Lazlo’s, which makes The Dark a better read, in my opinion.
There’s also the very end. It’s one thing to come down and hang out with a kid, like The Dark does in Orion, but think about what Lazlo’s Dark did. He knew that he terrified the kid, so he gave him a light bulb. The very thing that would keep himself away. The very thing that destroys his essence, just to give him some ease and peace of mind.That’s some self-sacrificial love.
Next week: Extra Yarn vs. The Full Belly Bowl
If there are any books you would like to see battle, (picture books or middle grade) please let me know. I’ll try to make it happen. I’m thinking of doing a Franny K Stein vs. Frank Einstein soon, but both books are checked out right now.