The Dark and Other Great Stories

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It’s summer in the Midwest and it’s hot. That’s really not unusual, but sometimes parents run short of ideas to keep their kids happy and occupied, especially by the end of long, steamy days. It’s easy to sit them in front of a screen of some sort, but I’d like to recommend you end your day with a good book or two. Even children who can read enjoy being read to, and summer is a great time to create memories by diving into new books. Imagine the excitement of reading a “thriller” by flashlight on the patio, deck or porch.

The Dark, written by Lemony Snicket, features Laszlo, a little boy who is afraid of the dark. Laszlo knows the dark lurks in any number of places in his house, but especially in the cellar. One night, after his nightlight goes out, Laszlo plucks up his nerve, takes his flashlight and heads to the cellar to meet the dark. You’ll have to get the book to find out what happens, but let’s just say that my four-year-old granddaughter was spell-bound as Laszlo inched down the steps toward the dark.

In fact, the look on her face was something akin to what you might see on an adult’s face in the midst of a mystery thriller movie. I won’t spoil the ending, but I am happy to say the book reached a satisfying conclusion. My granddaughters and I learned something about the thrill of a good book, while also getting some insight into the importance of facing our fears.

I wish more of us could read The Dark and other good children’s books. If we did, we might better remember what we once knew as children and have somehow forgotten as adults. Take, for example, the lesson of The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen.

The pout-pout fish appears to have a problem with a bad attitude. He’s a glass-half-full kind of guy. Ever know anyone like that? Lots of folks try to cheer him up, but he continues to insist, “I’m a pout-pout fish with a pout-pout face. So I spread the dreary-wearies all over the place.” The grand-boys loved this book, and wanted me to read it over and over.

The book is fun. The words rhyme and the illustrations are terrific, but dealing with a pouty person on a regular basis is not. What do you do if you’ve got a “pout-pout fish” in your home or workplace who appears resistant to any and all efforts to bring a smile to his face? I can’t tell you, but the book will. The book even may help you if you are prone to being a pout-pout fish yourself. Check it out.

There’s a lot about adult life that is serious—very serious. The events headlined in the evening news remind us all too well of just how brief and tenuous life can be. With that in mind, how would you like to spend the precious time allotted to you? Do you want fear to be the focus of your days? Can you really change the future by worrying? Will a frown on your face change the outcome of a potential bad event? Probably not! None of us knows the length of our days, but when I come to the end of mine I hope I will have filled as many moments as possible with the joy of ordinary things—things like enjoying a good tickle.

The Tickle Monster, by Josie Bissett, gives you lots of ideas for tickling someone you love.

If we tickled more and fought less would the world be a better place? I think it probably would. It seems we all knew this as children. Perhaps if we read children’s books more often we would remember it as adults.

Dr. Jennifer Baker, the founder and director of Good Dads, is the wife of one, the mother of two the the grandmother of eight. She can be reached for question or comment at jennifer@gooddads.com.

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