George’s fear of the dark is clear from the cover, where the bedsheets are drawn up to his nose; young listeners will want to know if this ends well.
In the daylight, the blond protagonist is fearless. He scales tall trees, rescues damsels in distress and downs insects in a single gulp. The darkened bedroom, however, has him quivering at the threshold. Valentine creates just the right balance of humor and sympathy around her character. Readers will chuckle at his rigid body—parallel to the floor, as his father attempts to pry him from the door—and at the whites of his terrified eyes in the total blackness of the next spread. The gouache-and–colored-pencil illustrations are rendered with visible graphite strokes for these nighttime scenes. This choice adds to the tension on pages where familiar objects appear to have menacing expressions. George’s teddy bear and pajamas (both red) stand out, so when he accidently tosses his blanket-wrapped companion across the room during the climax, observant viewers will know something before George does. The boy’s empathy for another (his bear is scared too) prompts him to summon his courage, venture past the shark-shaped laundry basket and conquer his debilitating emotions.
This depiction rings true in its portrayal of the paralysis of fear and the power of the right circumstances to motivate change. (Picture book. 4-6)