Thanks to Beach Lane Books and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Dark on Light for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.
Dark on Light
Written by Dianne White | Illustrated by Felicita Sala
The setting sun paints the sky a golden yellow, deepening to rose as it slips below the horizon. Trotting down the path from the cozy red farmhouse, it’s windows already aglow, a dog makes its way towards the woods. Three children—a brother and two sisters—look out over their yard and beyond to the rolling hills, wondering where their pet might be. They pull on boots and grab a flashlight. The youngest sister checks the doghouse just in case.
Following behind the beam of light, they pass through the gate, leaving their garden gnome behind while knowing how “inviting the trail. Timid the fawn. / Dark the hedge that borders the lawn.” The older sister waves to a doe and her baby standing silently in the meadow as she passes by, The full moon is on the rise as the children wade into the tall grasses where “lavender blooms, fragrant and bright. / Hedge and trail and dark on light.”
The late autumn sky is scattered with stars now as a ghostly figure moves overhead. The boy directs his flashlight upward, just in time to catch a barn owl pass by on its way to perch in a nearby tree. The older children call out their dog’s name and look behind trees while their little sister inspects tiny discoveries hidden in the grass and turns cartwheels in the deepening shadows. The flashlight’s beam illuminates something that begs more investigation.
As a fox looks on and a squirrel, curled up in its nest, dozes, the girl bends down and shines the light into the hollow underneath a tree’s thick roots. And who should appear, but their adventurous pup. The game of hide-and-seek over, the four take in the mystery of the forest: “Damp the moss. Ancient the sky. / Dark the leaves, crisp and dry.” The dog runs from the woods as the kids give chase, the flashlight no longer needed under the glimmering moon. A lone rabbit hidden in undergrowth at the edge of the woods witnesses their play.
They near the house, elated by their nighttime escapade and brimming with the story as they run toward their father, who has come out to meet them with a lantern. The door opens and silver light spills across the porch, down the steps, and onto the well-worn path. Inside, it’s time for quiet cuddling, a story, and saying goodnight: “Cozy the blanket. Pillowed the head. / Dark the attic. Snug the bed. / Sapphire the window, glowing and bright. / Attic and blanket and dark on light.” Downstairs, the dog snoozes in his bed while in the sky above: “white the star, shimmering bright. / House and room and dark on light.”
In this follow up to Green on Green, also illustrated by Felicita Sala, and Blue on Blue, illustrated by Beth Krommes, Dianne White calls readers back to explore the natural world. Her lovely, effortlessly flowing cadence transports readers into the wonders and mystery of a late autumn night with a trio of siblings on a mission to find their playful dog. As the three search, White invites readers to notice animals and plants, scents and sounds, and the colors and comfort of darkness and light with her overlapping and repeated phrasing. Her evocative vocabulary (a “timid fawn,” the “burnished moon,” an “ancient sky,” and the forest “veiled and deep,” among other beautiful choices) not only adds to the ambiance of the story but encourages readers to reflect on the complexity of the world around them. White does all of this while also presenting a mystery that kids will no less compelling for it’s gentle and straightforward resolution.
Accompanying White’s lyrical storytelling are Felicita Sala’s captivating watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil illustrations that glow with the setting sun, the warmth of a waiting home, the shimmer of the rising full moon, and the steadfast comfort of a flashlight in hand. Sala perfectly captures the rhythms of childhood, from the three siblings gathered at the window looking for their dog to their search through bushes and grasses close to home and farther afield to their excited return home and quiet bedtime routine. You can almost feel the smooth paving stones leading away from the house, smell the lavender as the older sister picks a small bouquet, and hear the children’s shouts and laughter upon returning home with their pet. The final scenes of cuddled-up reading and goodnight kisses and the house finally dark for the night make Dark on Light a perfect book for bedtime story times.
A superlative melding of lyrical storytelling and exquisite illustration that invites discovery and a love for language, Dark on Light is a book that both children and adults will love sharing for snuggly story times any time. The book is a must for home, school, and public library collections.
Ages 3 – 8
Beach Lane Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534487895
About the Author
Dianne White is fond of lavender blooms and the way an orange moon hangs in the evening sky. She’s the author of several picture books, including the award-winning Blue on Blue, illustrated by Caldecott medalist Beth Krommes, and Green on Green, illustrated by Felicita Sala. Dianne lives with her family in Gilbert, Arizona, where many nights at twilight, the desert blazes rose on sapphire on dark on light. For more information and to download a free activity kit, visit diannewrites.com. You can connect with Dianne on Facebook: Dianne White | Instagram: @diannewrites | Twitter: @diannewrites
About the Illustrator
Felicita Sala is a self-taught illustrator and painter. She has a degree in philosophy from the University of Western Australia. She now lives and works in Rome. She draws inspiration from nature, children, mid-century illustration, folk art, and architecture. To learn more, visit felicitasala.com. You’ll also find Felicita on Instagram: @felicita.sala
Read a New Book Month Activity
Flashlight On, Flashlight Off Game
It’s fun to play games in the dark! During Earth Hour flip off your lamps and overhead lights and play this game that challenges your memory while you think about our planet! This game can be played with two or more players.
- 6 – 12 small objects (the number of objects can be adjusted depending on the ages of the players)
- A table or floor area large enough to lay out the objects
With the Flashlight On:
- Lay out the objects on a table or on the floor
- Give all the players time to look at the objects and try to memorize them
- Choose one player to remove one of the objects
With the Flashlight Off
- Turn off the flashlight
- While the room is dark, the designated player removes one object from the rest
- Turn the flashlight back on
With the Flashlight Back On
- The other players try to figure out which object is missing
- In addition to removing one object, the other objects can be moved around to different positions
- Remove more than one object at a time
- Add an object instead of removing one
You can find Dark on Light at these booksellers
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million
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