This meditation on the dark comes from retired astronaut Chris Hadfield, with assistance from author and journalist Kate Fillion. Hadfield was once commander of the International Space Station and was the first Canadian to walk in space.
In the book, we see Hadfield as a boy. He dreams of becoming an astronaut but fears the dark. The dark, in fact, attracts aliens in his mind’s eye. The young Hadfield lives with his family on an island, and everyone gathers on the night of July 20, 1969, to see the moon landing in the one home with a television. Outer space, Hadfield realizes that night as he watches history unfold, is the “darkest dark ever.” This is a pivotal moment, one in which he realizes he must master his fears. The alien-like shadows might still be there, but he has changed, now fully grasping, as put so eloquently by the authors, “the power and mystery and velvety black beauty of the dark.”
In that dark can live dreams, the kind that help you realize who you want to become. And of course, in his dreams, the boy is an astronaut floating in space. In a closing author’s note from Hadfield, he brings home his point: The dark can be for dreams—and best of all, “morning is for making them come true.”
The Fan Brothers render most of the book in a realistic style, though there are elements of mystery and even horror-lite—particularly in the aliens in the shadows, the ones young Hadfield fears. Since the book strikes an overtly inspirational tone, the creepiness is refreshing when the aliens appear, the spreads taking a turn for the bizarre, the fantastical. The illustrators depict these aliens in the dark as small, almost furry creatures with pupil-less, glowing eyes. Look closely: Even the trees at night by the boy’s home have leafy ears and eerie, yellow eyes.
This is a contemplative tale for children who love to read about outer space—and certainly those for whom the dark brings terrors.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.