CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 7. . . .October 21, 2016
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is a trained military pilot who became known for his missions on the International Space Station and his friendly commentary and music sent from there to earth. He retired from the Canadian Space Agency in 2013. He has become a public speaker; a writer (An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth); a recording artist (Space Sessions: Songs from a Tin Can); and a teacher at the University of Waterloo. He has even made an appearance on MasterChef Canada where he talked about what the food is like when you are an astronaut.
Now he is also a picture book author. In collaboration writer Kate Fillion, Hadfield has written a simple story based on his own early fascination with outer space.
The boy in the book, also named Chris, is busy exploring the idea of a realm beyond the earth.
But the time after sundown produces anxiety in the boy, and sends him repeatedly into his parents’ room.
Only the prospect of missing out on a special upcoming evening out finally makes him settle in his own bed and eventually fall asleep to a dream of – what else? An expedition into space. The actual event that Chris is anticipating is foreshadowed by the image of the front page of the Toronto Daily Star from 16 July, 1969 commenting on the upcoming the Apollo 11 moon landing. At the neighbours’ (who have “the only TV on the whole island”) on the long-awaited night, Chris and the rest of a rapt audience watch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon. Somehow viewing humans stepping out onto the surface of this bright globe that he can see from his window gives Chris a new perspective.
Hadfield has told a very personal story here. It is a little snippet of biography but also an insight into the conquering of a childhood fear. Of course, as with other writing collaborations, it is hard to know where Hadfield’s words end and Fillion’s begin.
The art is provided by a pair of young brothers, both graduates of the Ontario College of Art and Design. The illustrations go from homely shaded interiors to a boy’s dusky bedroom to the intense darkness of the magnificent double spread of star and planets at the end of the book.
Both for its reference to the life an important contemporary Canadian and for its artistic merit, The Darkest Dark is
Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, BC.
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