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Lights Out, Leonard (Josh Pyke, illus by Chris Nixon, Puffin)

This book has a perennial theme—a child who’s scared of the dark—but with a really original twist: parents who write a manual on how to scare monsters. Chris Nixon’s illustrations are very contemporary and fresh, with blocks of colour, interesting textures and a bold, confident line. The use of a limited palette sets this book apart from other similar picture books; its nocturnal colour scheme of blues and greys is very striking, with splashes of contrasting orange keeping it from being too dark. Josh Pyke’s text is good to read aloud; it’s spare and rhythmic, which is hardly surprising as the author is well known as a singer-songwriter. I like the way that Leonard’s parents create the tool (the manual) that empowers him to conquer his fear of the dark—it’s really clever. Apparently, monsters are afraid of tidy bedrooms, minty breath and teddy bears, amongst other achievable bedtime tropes. This is an amusing, reassuring book with a universal theme and is a good addition to the range of bedtime books for children aged 3–6.

Louise Pfanner is an author, illustrator and bookseller


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