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Light and Dark Topic

best childrens books about light and dark

Recommended children’s books about light and dark

Explore the world of light and dark with this exciting collection of children’s titles about the people and creatures who wake up when you go to sleep.

Our booklist is designed to help children in KS1 and EYFS learn about the Science topics of light and dark, from recommended books that provide insights into the world of nocturnal animals like Owl Babies or The Bat Book, to stories about the getting to grips with the dark like The King Who Banned the Dark or The Rabbit, The Dark and the Biscuit Tin (look out for the fold-out page with guaranteed wow-factor!).With rich illustrations, fascinating facts and thrilling adventures, this booklist will help children to look at the world differently – but they may need a torch!

NB: This booklist is aimed at children aged 4-7. For books for older children, try our Light and Sound KS2 Booklist.

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Recommended stories about darkness and light

Lemony Snicket
 & Jon Klassen
A universal and empowering story about conquering your fears, from Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen.Laszlo is afraid of the dark. The dark lives in the same house as Laszlo but mostly it spends its time in the basement. It doesn't visit Laszlo in his room. Until one night it does . . . Join Lazlo on his journey to meet the dark, and find out why it will never bother him again.With emotional insight and poetic economy, two world-renowned talents of children's literature bring to light a powerful story about overcoming fears.
Chris Hadfield
 & Kate Fillion & The Fan Brothers

The Darkest Dark tells the true story of how Chris Hadfield conquered his childhood fear of the dark after watching the Apollo 11 moon landing, thus paving the way for his own journey to become an astronaut. The foreword and afterword from Chris add excellent context which makes the story even more inspiring.

Children will be able to empathise with Chris’ fear of night-time monsters which he overcomes through his realisation of ‘the power and mystery and velvety black beauty of the dark’ in space. The expansive artwork on the pages conveying the awesome majesty of space contrasts beautifully with the earth-bound portraits of a warm and loving human family. The uplifting message of this book inspires the reader to dream big; as Chris says ‘Your dreams are always with you…Big dreams about the kind of person you want to be. Wonderful dreams about the life you will live. Dreams that actually can come true’.

Yuval Zommer

For story times on starry nights with the blackest skies – comfort and warmth will be readily found in Yuval Zommer’s Northern Lights inspired picture book The Lights that Dance in the Night. Completing Yuval’s ‘winter trilogy’, this is a lyrical celebration of the Northern Lights. From tiny specs of dust to gleaming rays in the dark, the Northern Lights travel across the Arctic, uniting every creature in a celebration that reverberates through land and sea. Illustrated in Yuval Zommer’s compelling style, this is a dreamy and gentle story poem that is perfect for bedtime with little ones or cosy classroom story sessions inspiring children to want to seek out the wonders of the sky at night.

Jill Tomlinson
 & Paul Howard
Chapter book

This beautiful story about a little barn owl who struggles to fight his fear of the dark is a true classic story book for children.

Plop the barn owl is afraid of the dark. To help him overcome his fear, Mummy Owl sends Plop on a mission to seek out the opinions of others about the dark. He finds out from children, adults and a cat that they all have things they love about the dark. In the end, Plop decides he can embrace the night time darkness like a true nocturnal creature.

This is a joyful short chapter book, tenderly told by Jill Tomlinson, whose animal stories are highly recommendable for Key Stage 1.

Joe Todd-Stanton
From the award-winning Joe Todd-Stanton, comes an exquisite and heartfelt picture book touching on the bewildering experience of moving house. This beautiful story explores how this can affect a child's sense of belonging, but also how it can open them up to new and wonderful experiences.When Nyla has to leave her home in the countryside to start life again in the city, all she can think about is everything she misses from before. So when a comet comes crashing through the city streets and starts to glow and grow, Nyla can't resist a chance to head somewhere that feels closer to what she had before. But what starts as an escape could be just the thing to make her finally feel at home.

Katie Sahota
 & Harry Woodgate
An important story which amplifies the importance of introverts, while showcasing the amazing celebrations of light across our diverse communities.
Nicola O'Byrne

For a read-aloud with the extra wow factor, we recommend The Rabbit, The Dark and the Biscuit Tin, guaranteed to produce ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ at storytime.

Any child who has ever tried to prolong bedtime will relate to Rabbit. In a bid to not have to go to bed, Rabbit decides to capture the dark and hide it in a biscuit tin. If it doesn’t get dark, he won’t have to go to sleep! But hiding the dark has knock-on effects, and he hasn’t thought about the nocturnal animals, his body’s need for rest and recovery, or the joy of waking up to a delicious breakfast!

With an impressive fold-out page that we just love, this is one of our go-to story choices for preschool and younger primary children.

Emily Haworth-Booth
When a King bans the dark completely, installing an artificial sun, and enforcing “anti-dark” laws, it seems like a good idea. The citizens don't need to worry about monsters, crime, or any of the other scary things that might live in the dark. But what happens when nobody can sleep? Will the citizens revolt?Waterstones' Children's Book Prize 2019, Klaus Flugge Prize 2019 and Independent Bookshop Week Awards 2019There was once a little boy who was afraid of the dark. There's nothing unusual about that. Most children are afraid of the dark at one time of another. But this little boy was a Prince, and he decided that when he became King, he would do something about the dark.He would ban it.The King Who Banned the Dark is a beautiful and thought-provoking story about how we need the dark in order to enjoy the light.
Lizi Boyd
Inside a tent it's cozy. But what is going on outside? Is it dark? Is it scary? Not if you have your trusty flashlight! Told solely through images and using a spare yet dramatic palette, artist Lizi Boyd has crafted a masterful exploration of night, nature, and art. Both lyrical and humorous, this visual poem-like the flashlight beam itself-reveals that there is magic in the darkness. We just have to look for it.

Children's books about nocturnal animals

Charlotte Milner
Non-fiction Picturebook

You’ll want to take a while to hang out with this new non-fiction text, especially if you’re batty about facts!

The Bat Book by Charlotte Milner follows in the footsteps of The Bee Book and The Sea Book to highlight to children important ecological issues faced by our planet, this time focusing on the world’s only flying mammals and their importance to our global ecosystem. With the aim of exploring the topsy-turvy world of often unnoticed ‘tiny superheroes’, this book identifies important biological features of bats (such as how similar their wing skeletons are to human hands) and how amazingly well adapted the 1300 different species are to surviving in habitats all over the world. The book then turns its attention to how bats are important to humans, common myths about bats, the challenges that particular species face and actions to help endangered bats.

Bats are often villainised in children’s stories (my four-year-old’s first question when opening this book was ‘do they eat people?’), but this book helps to address misconceptions and emphasises what fascinating, varied and important creatures bats are. Bats assist with pest control, spread seeds through the forests, and help to pollinate hundreds of different species of plants around the world.

The Bat Book is an appealing book for curious readers to pick up and can be enjoyed as a cover-to-cover read or as something to dip in and out of, with a clear contents page, subject headings and an index to aid navigation. The images, diagrams and overall design style make it accessible to younger readers but the facts have enough depth to engage and challenge older readers too, making The Bat Book a worthwhile choice for primary school libraries.

Emma Reynolds
Environmental activism gets a nocturnal twist in this utterly charming picture book about a young girl and her mission to save the bats!Amara loves bats! Her favourite thing to do is to collect bat facts and watch the amazing mammals fly at night by her house. But when Amara moves to a new town, she learns that her beloved bats no longer roost nearby because they are losing their habitat.Amara is upset. What can she do to help? She's just one person, and the problem feels so much bigger than her. But after doing some research, she discovers that there are many young people making big changes all around the world. Inspired to take action, Amara gathers her new friends to help save the bats. Together, she knows they can make a difference!Emma Reynolds crafts an inspiring story about community action, perseverance, and what to do in the face of climate anxiety. At its heart, this is a story about hope and finding a place to call home.
Timothy Knapman
 & Jane McGuiness
A most beautiful story of an inquisitive baby badger's exploration of the world outside his den. The moment the reader meets Baby Badger, he draws us into his world - a world where Daddy Badger encourages, teaches and protects him as he wonders about the world around him. This is an excellent father-and-child story with illustrations that reflect the story path and show the reader the beauty of Baby Badger's natural world as well as the father's natural instincts to protect, teach and encourage his young.
Martin Waddell
 & Patrick Benson

Owl Babies is a classic book for preschool that has been entertaining children for generations. A favourite preschool choice in both classrooms and homes, Owl Babies is the story of three baby owls – Sarah, Percy and Bill – who awaken from their daytime sleep to find that mother owl is missing. As the baby owls huddle together on their branch to wait, the night gets darker and the noises get scarier. Will mummy come back soon? This is a beautiful storytime favourite with a cosy ending, and one that anyone who has ever longed for a parent to return will immediately relate to.

Martin Jenkins
 & Richard Smythe
A beautifully illustrated picture book introducing young children to the concepts of light and dark.This beautiful picture book is the perfect introduction to light and dark. Fox is hungry. She waits until it’s dark and then she hunts for food, using the moon and the streetlights to find her way. The first book in the new Science Storybook series from Walker Books, illustrated by up-and-coming talent Richard Smythe and written by Martin Jenkins, the award-winning author of Can We Save the Tiger? and Ape.

Children's books about bioluminescence

Zoe Armstrong
 & Anja Susanj
Did you know that under the sea, deep in the forest, and out in the desert there are creatures that make light all by themselves? The Earth is full of curious creatures that really do glow in the dark. From fireflies and sea turtles to puffins (yes, puffins!), scorpions and squirrels, this beautifully illustrated non-fiction picture book reveals a hidden world of amazing glowing animals. How do they glow? And what is the brightest creature of all? Read on to find out all sorts of fascinating facts about these incredible creatures. Children will discover how and why these creatures glow, and explore how humans have tried to harness their dazzling skills. A perfect book for children with a curiosity to learn more about the wonderful animals we share our planet with.
Jane Clarke
 & Britta Teckentrup
A delightful picturebook filled with beautiful neon artwork. Florence Firefly is lost, and there are so many bright lights shining in the night sky that she doesn't know which way to go. She'll need some help to find her way back home. In this interactive story, children can help Florence on her journey by encouraging her to fly faster, suggesting which direction to take and making a wish.
Alex Latimer

Ray is a spectacular picture book which explores a story of adventure, while addressing fears of the dark and the unknown.

Throughout the tale, Mouse takes a lovely walk outdoors when time escapes him and the sun begins to set. He quickly becomes ‘terrified’ and sobs by himself until a helpful firefly appears and asks Mouse to follow him. His reassuring words ‘I’m Ray and I’ll light your way’, are repeated throughout the story as different creatures join Mouse on a quest back home through the darkness. There are many simple, yet fun opportunities for children to retell the story. For example, a story map is used to tell the way back home: ‘My house is past the woodpile, around the cactuses, up by the pond and just beyond the rocks’.

Alex Latimer’s illustrations beautifully capture a contrast between dark and light. On each page, the animals confuse a shadow for something frightening, only for the firefly to reveal that things are not always what they seem. The silhouette of a snake turns out to be just an innocent log pile. Similarly, a frightening shadow of a bear transpires to be just a cactus- phew!

Children can both enjoy and identify with the fears cleverly alleviated through this story, with many opportunities to join in. Latimer creates the story through rhyming couplets, reminiscent of many classic children’s stories. With a clever twist at the end, this story can be enjoyed by children, teachers and parents as a bedtime story or teaching tool.

Anna McGregor

Meet Fergus. He has two eyes, a swishy little tale and an adorable little mouth . . . or has he? During our brief tour of the ocean’s depths, Fergus is determined to stay out of the light. He stays out of sight as we meet the fearsome-looking angler fish, the bizarre-looking spookfish and a scary pair of vampire squid. These amazing creatures disappear from view as quickly as they appear. But where do they go? And could the mysterious Fergus have something to do with their hasty disappearances?

This is a beautifully illustrated picture book, set in the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean with bright, colourful illustrations on an inky black background. It is a great early introduction to some of the fantastic and unusual creatures which lurk in the deepest oceans and contains a fabulous, unexpected twist at the end. At the back, there is a double-page spread of facts about the creatures which live deep under the surface and information about deep-sea exploration and bioluminescence. This is a brilliant read-aloud picture book with broad appeal to both young children in general and those with a more specific interest in sea life and the science of light.

Children's books about night time

Peter Arrhenius
 & Ingela P Arrhenius
Non-fiction Picturebook

This is a rhyming non-fiction book with flaps to lift and oodles of details to spot. The concept of the book is about people who work at night time. It could fit well with topics about People Who Help Us or Light and Dark. Children enjoy the peek-inside nature of the flaps, gaining insights into a world that is not normally accessible to us because we are sleeping!

The simple language, gentle rhyme and warm illustrations make this a good choice of non-fiction to share with Nursery, Preschool and Reception aged children.

Harriet Evans
 & Nic Jones

This is a non-fiction book with flaps that take the reader on a night-time journey around the world, including through habitats such as the Arctic tundra and Himalayan mountains. Split pages allow readers to explore each landscape further by seeing which night-time wildlife can be found out in the open and which stays hidden within its shadowy habitat. Though the book focuses mainly on the animals found in different habitats and biomes, there are references to some plants and other organisms too.

Each page features a paragraph that explains more about each habitat and what happens there during the house between dusk and dawn. The choice of language pitches the book to be accessible for a primary class, with just the right amount of new, challenging and subject-specific vocabulary to stretch more confident and independent readers.

The use of flaps in the book adds a real element of fun to each page. When lifted, they reveal the surprise of further illustrations and information. Any young reader interested in animals, habitats and nature would be enthralled in this book and it is one that I would certainly recommend for school libraries and classrooms. This non-fiction book could also be used to support curriculum learning in the subjects of geography and science.

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