cover image Home Before Dark

Home Before Dark

Ian Beck. Scholastic, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-439-17522-7

A fantasy about a lost teddy bear, this tale founders on its gaps in narrative logic. Lily and her mother are in the park when her mother says it's time to leave: ""It looks like it's going to rain, and we must get home before dark."" Lily falls asleep in her stroller and her teddy bear slips out of her arms, whereupon he comes to life (the why and wherefore of this transformation are not addressed) and feels the pressure of the mother's words: ""He had to go home to Lily before dark."" The terrors of being out after dark appear legion: the ambulatory Teddy encounters killer cars, looming pedestrians and a monstrous-looking Scottie, all amid often-blinding rain and wind. The arduous journey resolves happily a paperboy slips him through the mail slot, and when last seen, the stuffed toy is snuggling with the joyful (but oblivious) Lily. Beck (The Teddy Robber) ratchets up the narrative's menacing mood with his deft use of chiaroscuro and vertiginous, cinematic angles. The whole outing, from the unresolved issue of Teddy as independent creature versus inanimate toy to the unquestioned fear of the dark, seems likelier to induce anxiety than to entertain children. Ages. 6 mos.-6 yrs. (Apr.)