Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett – Review by Jen Vincent

orion and the dark

I first discovered Orion and The Dark at the Candlewick booth at ALA Midwinter in Chicago earlier this year. I read and reread it, gushed about it, sent people to read it, e-mailed Nerdy Book Club to see if I could review it as soon as it was officially out. When I instantly adore a book so much I want to write a Nerdy post about it, it’s basically love at first sight…or read.

jen and orion

I so quickly fell in love with Orion and The Dark because it’s a great story of overcoming fear. As a mentor text, I can see the discussion it might start around what scares us and why. It got me thinking about what I was scared of when I was little. What came to mind was a memory of sitting in my dad’s car, asking him to wait a few more minutes before making me go into the first day of summer camp. Then, when time was really up, I begged him to walk in with me and help me figure out where to go. This reminded me of other times when I’ve been scared to walk into a new situation. Now, I don’t get as freaked out because I know I can always introduce myself to people and start making friends but for a long time, I hated the thought of being somewhere new and not knowing anyone, where to go, or what to do.

I’m sure everyone can think of something that scared or scares him or her and relate to Orion in this book. What I love even more is that once we start thinking about what scares us, then like Orion, we can start learning more about what scares us and it might not seem so scary anymore. Because, aren’t we more scared the less we know? Once you examine something, look at it closely, understand how it works, see it from different angles, it doesn’t seem so scary. When we know more, we’re less scared. This is such a great message to share with kids and to remind adults of as well.

Orion and The Dark is the perfect book for talking through what scares us and offers a great invitation to think or write about what scares us. But what makes the story truly stand out is the gorgeous artwork. I happened to visit Lake Michigan after I bought Orion and The Dark at the bookstore and I was amazed by how breathtakingly beautiful the colors are in this book and how they compare to the brilliant water and blue sky that was in front of me.

orion at the beach

Orion and The Dark is a gem of a book. Between the story and the artwork, it’s picture book heaven. I think of it as a wonderful blend of Lemony Snicket’s The Dark and Dan Santat’s Beekle. There are even a few pages with sweet cut-outs that I’ll let you discover for yourself. Overall, I’m pretty sure if you read this book, you’ll find yourself hugging it to you and thanking Emma Yarlett for bringing this story to life.


Jen Vincent isn’t afraid of the dark so you can find her lying in the grass star-gazing on clear summer nights. She’s a Coordinator of Instructional Technology in the suburbs of Chicago. She tweets at @mentortexts and blogs at http://www.teachmentortexts.com.