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  • Published: 15 August 2023
  • ISBN: 9780143778011
  • Imprint: Picture Puffin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 32
  • RRP: $21.00

Lucy and the Dark

When Lucy makes friends with the Dark she discovers a new and exciting world - but the world is about to discover what it's like without the Dark! A funny and enjoyable bedtime story with a glow-in-the dark cover to encourage lights out!

From an award-winning author and illustrator comes this delightful story about a child who faces her fears and makes friends with the Dark. They go on a wild nocturnal adventure together - but what happens to everyone else when the Dark has run away?
‘I’m Dark,’ said the voice. ‘It’s all right if you don’t like me. Nobody does. Everyone is too afraid. Just close your eyes and by morning I’ll be gone.’
Dark heaved a sigh.

One night, Lucy befriends the Dark and zooms away with it on an adventure to explore all the wonderful things that happen when the Dark is around. But back home, everyone else is discovering that they really do miss the Dark after all. Can Lucy and Dark be convinced to return?

From the creators of My Elephant is Blue comes this gorgeous, funny story about why we should ALL make friends with the Dark. It even has a surprise at lights out in the form of a glow-in-the-dark cover!

  • Published: 15 August 2023
  • ISBN: 9780143778011
  • Imprint: Picture Puffin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 32
  • RRP: $21.00

About the authors

Melinda Szymanik

Born when the Beatles were big, Melinda’s early ambitions to be a pirate and a time traveller didn’t pan out. She decided she would write these careers into stories instead, and set about becoming an author. Writing is a long apprenticeship, however, and it wasn’t until 2002 that she had her first story accepted for publication. Melinda describes the author’s life as rather like traversing the Himalayas. Reaching the top is only ever a brief experience before one must head on down the other side again and onto attempting the next mountain.
Melinda writes picture books, short stories and novels for children and young adults. She has won a number of awards for her work - her picture book, The Were-Nana, won the New Zealand Post Children’s Choice Award in 2009, and was shortlisted for the 2010 Sakura Medal. Her novel, A Winter's Day in 1939, won Librarian's Choice at the 2014 LIANZA Awards and her picture book Fuzzy Doodle, was a 2017 White Raven Selection.
In 2023, she was awarded the Michael King Writers Centre Shanghai Residency.
Melinda lives in Auckland with her family, and loves watching movies, eating out with her favourite people, and travelling abroad when the stars are aligned. She strongly believes that you can never have too many books, and you can never be too kind.

Vasanti Unka

Vasanti Unka is an award-winning writer, designer and illustrator noted for the originality of her storytelling, her riotously colourful and inventive illustrations and the gorgeous design and production of her picture books.

Vasanti is the illustrator of Hill & Hole by Kyle Mewburn, which was shortlisted for the Best Picture Book award at the 2011 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Hill & Hole won the LIANZA Russell Clark Award the same year and was also the first children's book to win the Gerard Reid Award for Best Book at the PANZ Book Design Awards.

The Boring Book (Puffin 2013), which Vasanti wrote, illustrated and designed, was named the 2014 New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and also took out the Best Picture Book Award category. The judges described it as 'a remarkable book that exceeds any expectations of its genre. It exhibits the highest quality of design and its presentation is thoroughly original. The story takes delightful unexpected turns that charm afresh with each reading. Small children and older readers alike will be delighted by its subversive touches and entertained by its warmth and fun.' It also won international acclaim with its inclusion in the 2014 White Ravens Catalogue and in 2016 was named an IBBY Honour Book for the excellence of its illustrations.

Stripes! No, Spots!, published by Puffin in 2015 and described by poet Paula Green as 'scrumptious in every way', was lauded as a 2016 Storylines Notable Picture Book and was simultaneously published in the UK and US.

Who Stole the Rainbow?, a humorous, genre-spanning scientific mystery-thriller for children about how rainbows appear and disappear, was published in 2018. It was a finalist for the Best Picture Book category of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2019.

I am the Universe, published in 2020, shortlisted for the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults Russell Clark Award for Illustration 2021 and won the 2021 NZSA Heritage Literary Award and the NZ Booklovers Award for Best Children’s Book. The judges praised its ‘Wonderful illustrations' and 'vibrant descriptions ... the themes are particularly poignant as they remind us of our universal connectivity.’

I am the Universe
went on to win the PANZ Book Design Awards Best Children's Book 2021 and was a finalist in the Best Typography category. Judge Ant Sang called it '...a book which readers can enjoy over and over, and find something new to discover each time. Fun and imaginative throughout, the large format perfectly suits the scale of the subject. Readers can’t help but feel transported on a joyous journey from the first to last page.'

In August 2021 Vasanti was also awarded the Arts Foundation Mallinson Rendel Laureate Award for Illustration.

Vasanti lives in Auckland, New Zealand, where she juggles author, school visits, creative work, postgraduate study and numerous book projects.

Praise for Lucy and the Dark

This is a book with appeal across the board. I’m sure all kids (and probably some adults) can relate to a fear of the dark, but even without that, it’s a well-told story with fantastic illustrations, and that’s the kind of thing that should appeal to anyone.

Annelies Judson, The Sapling

This picture book is an absolute gem for helping children feel comfortable sleeping in the dark.

The School Library

Lucy and the Dark is a children’s book, like a few others I have read this year, that has really made me feel something. I feel the dark, I feel for Lucy, I feel sad and touched and delighted. This is what a good story can do. In the hands of a deft author such as Melinda, simplicity of craft leads to a richness of narrative. Glorious. Vasanti’s illustrations are equally glorious. The colour palette and textures catch the mood, the facial expressions are exquisite and full of life, the visualisation of the Dark sublime. Just as it is with the narrative, these are illustrations that you feel. I am reminded of how, when you look into the pitch black of night, everything seems the same, but how the longer you look, as your eyes grow accustomed, you see the nuances, the ripples of life, the subtle shifts in shadow and light. Lucy in the Dark is a gift of a book, beautifully designed, beautifully written, beautifully illustrated. A book to celebrate indeed.

Paula Green, Poetry Box

To little ones, the world becomes a very different place, even in familiar surroundings, when the lights are out – for one thing, the cover of this de-lightful book actually glows in the dark! Facing her fears, Lucy embarks on a wild adventure making friends with ‘the Dark’ as this funny story (ideal for readers aged 0-5 years) shines a light on a common cause of anxiety.

Rural Living

It was also a special surprise to turn the lights off after reading and seeing the cover glow! My boys can’t wait for ‘lights out’ after reading this book! So far we have read the book three nights in a row and once in the morning – so it is safe to say it is a favourite...Five stars – myself and the kids really enjoyed it.

Reader review from Emmeline, Kidspot

Evocative illustrations by Vasanti Unka and a touching story by Melinda Szymanik about making friends with our fears, in this case, the very relatable fear of the dark, makes a compelling combo in Lucy and the Dark. This book is sure to become a firm favourite at bedtime for little ones who are nervous about lights out.

NZ Booklovers

Awards & recognition

Storylines Notable Book Award

Awarded  •  2023  •  Storylines Notable Picture Book

NZ Booklovers Award

Shortlisted  •  2024  •  NZ Booklovers Award for Best Children's Picture Book

Discover more

2024 NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults Finalists

The NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults are a unique celebration of the contribution New Zealand’s children’s authors and illustrators make to building national identity and cultural heritage.

2023 Storylines Notable Books List

The highest quality books in five genres published between August 2022 and November 2023.

Teachers' notes