"My name is Dark," she said.
September 12, 2012 7:40 PM   Subscribe

Before Mr. Dark and "Something Wicked This Way Comes," Ray Bradbury wrote about a mysterious little girl named Dark, who helps a little boy overcome his fears of the night. Presenting "Switch on the Night" (1955), Bradbury's first book for children and a delightful collaboration with Swiss artist Madeleine Gekiere.

"Switch on the Night" is about a nameless little boy who's afraid of the dark, and who hides in his room "with his lanterns and lamps and flashlights and candles and chandeliers" while the town's children play on summer-night lawns outside his window. Then Dark appears, and shows him the wonder of switching on the crickets, the frogs, the stars and the moon. The book is dedicated to Bradbury's daughters, Susan Marguerite and Ramona Anne (two more daughters, Bettina and Alexandra, would follow), and was reportedly written after Susan's birth; her disturbed sleep reminded Bradbury of his own childhood fear of the dark.

Bradbury submitted his own illustrations, but Gekiere's work ended up being paired with his words. The book was reissued in the early 1990s with illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon. A Spanish-language version of the picture book gives yet another dimension to Bradbury's story; to me, there's still something fitting about pairing atomic-age illustration with the man who turned on the stars for so many.

"And now the little boy is very happy.
He likes the Night.
Now he has a Night-switch instead of a light-switch!
And any night in summer that you wish
you can see him
Switching on the white moon,
switching on the red stars,
switching on the blue stars,
the green stars, the light stars,
the white stars,
switching on the frogs, the crickets, and Night.
And running on the dark, on the lawns,
with the happy children...
posted by MonkeyToes (10 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I was thrilled to find a 1955 edition of "Switch on the Night" at a library book sale. Ray Bradbury? A picture book? For the sum of .25, it's now on my shelf, at least when it's not being read to my daughter.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:43 PM on September 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

I love Ray Bradbury! I did not know of this story. I read other World of his to my now grown children, figuring that his bloka were a better preparation for the future than most little kid books.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:46 PM on September 12, 2012

* book!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:47 PM on September 12, 2012

Those illustrations are absolutely masterful.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:28 PM on September 12, 2012

Oh, this is brilliant.
posted by Mezentian at 8:34 PM on September 12, 2012


Like Katjusa Roquette, I didn't know about "Switch on the Night" despite loving Ray Bradbury's work and children's literature. Thanks, MonkeyToes!
posted by likeso at 3:41 AM on September 13, 2012

Thanks so much for this, MonkeyToes. I am a big Bradbury fan and had never heard of this book.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:39 AM on September 13, 2012

Very sweet. Must... obtain...
posted by doctornemo at 8:23 AM on September 13, 2012

The story's focus on a young boy and girl reminds me of Bradbury's "The Lake", which demolishes me every time I read it.
posted by doctornemo at 8:23 AM on September 13, 2012

We have the version with the Dillon illustrations. My daughter and I love it to pieces.
posted by RakDaddy at 12:44 PM on September 13, 2012

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