Night and Day in 3 New Picture Books

Several years ago my daughters came back from hiking and announced that they’d found the entrance to an undiscovered cave, perhaps even a whole system of caverns. I was skeptical. After all, they were hiking a maintained trail in a national forest, just 10 minutes from our house. There were even picnic shelters close by.

Still, I went with them for a look. They showed me where they’d gone off the trail, sliding down a steep bank of leaves. What they’d discovered looked like the entrance to an animal burrow. I shined a light through the small entrance, and it did indeed seem to lead to a much larger space. I wriggled in. The space was easy enough to stand up in, but when I scanned it with my light I gasped. I wasn’t in a cave. I was in an abandoned mine.

We returned a couple of days later with some official and experienced cavers to explore further. The mine wasn’t huge, just two branching, square-cut passages meandering into the hillside, but I’ll never forget the feeling of walking through them into the muffled dark with just a little headlamp. That small light in the dark became a tether, a guide and a lifeline all at once.

Light flickering in the darkness — whether the literal darkness of caves or the metaphorical darkness that sometimes shadows our souls — is a fundamental theme for storytellers. So it’s thrilling to see three new picture books that capture that sense of chiaroscuro in both words and images.

From “In the Dark.”Credit…Corinna Luyken

IN THE DARK (Knopf, 40 pp., $18.99, ages 3 to 7), written by Kate Hoefler and illustrated by Corinna Luyken, does it gorgeously. Here is a story of woods and witches, brooms and bird kites, black cats and new friends told with a spare, lyrical prose that invites engagement.

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