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The King Who Banned the Dark

Emily Haworth Booth
Age 5-7+

This is a story of a little boy who was afraid of the dark. Not so unusual you may think, but this little boy is a prince who decides that when he becomes king, he will actually ban the dark. This story explores what happens when, helped by his advisors, he tries to do just that.

This is a clever, engaging story which encourages readers to think about the importance of periods of darkness in our lives and also how power might be used, abused or resisted. The predominantly yellow and black colour scheme emphasises the artificially created permanent day time in the story and contrasts with the colourful burst of fireworks at the end of the book.


Share the story

Read aloud
As you read the book aloud pause occasionally to think together about what is happening. For example, you could pause after the first two double page spreads to consider how the king could ban the dark. Pause again to look at the page where people are celebrating all night, think about what you see in the pictures and what might happen next – will people just go on celebrating? What problems might there be?

Join in
When children are familiar with the story it would be fun for them to join in with the voices of the advisors. You could make up extra conversations too. Children developing independence as readers could read alternate pages or lines with you.

Talk more about the story

  • Talk about unfamiliar words and ideas eg ban, rumour, reign, revolt, banished, artificial

  • Discussing the rumours might lead to a discussion of fake news – eg the suggestion that the dark is stealing your money

  • Think together about what the king tried to do. Should he have done this? What advice would your child have given to the young king about his plan?

  • Talk about why people are often afraid of the dark and the sort of things that can reassure or help.

    Our family loved this book from the start to finish. The simple illustrations with predominantly, yellow, black and white make it instantly appealing and despite no issues with the dark in our family, it’s still a relatable subject and we were excited to begin.

    We began with a discussion about the title we were initially intrigued about why he banned the dark, and then happy to be correct when we began reading. Within a few pages, the adult enjoyment really kicked in, it is rare to read a book with such an adult connection whilst staying true to the narrative and keeping it age appropriate. My 5 year old and 7 year old could see the obvious issues with the advisors ‘advice’ and the manipulation of the people and it created some insightful dialogue about power and who we should listen to. The use of speech bubbles made it really conspiratorial and was great to read aloud.

    When the King has the artificial sun installed, we had a lovely chat about what we thought might be the issues with this and what the benefits might be ‘no bedtime’ being an obvious but misguided thought from my seven-year-old!

    We loved the acts of defiance from the people that triggered the ending and were happily on board, showing a non-conformist streak that has me both proud and worried. I only wish the redemption arc the king went through could be mirrored in real life by leaders who have made poor choices. The ending was perfect as it was just what we had been shouting at the king at the start

    Inspired by the illustration, we had a go at creating our own images using a restricted colour palette with liquid chalks and dark paper. It also gave us a chance to focus only on the illustration and chat about why the party pages had more colour.

    We read the book a few times over the summer and enjoyed it each time. After a camping weekend at a festival, we were able to chat about all the different ways light was used for safety, for fun and for spectacle and think about all the beautiful lights we had seen. The children had chosen a fairground ride in the dark as their last treat so they could see the lights and view the festival from above in the dark. We were also given new torches in our tents and decided to set up an experiment for the king when we got home to test which torch he could have used. We created a den in the wardrobe and got to work. We also decided he would much prefer our festival hat to his crown as it had built in lights.

    A great book for enjoyment, for really good in-depth discussions and fun activities.




Things to make and do

Play the story

  • Together you could role play a scene from the story with one of you being the king and the other one of the advisors.

  • You could set up and imaginary newsroom and your child could pretend to be a reporting news from the palace that the dark is going to be banned and why.

  • You could have an imaginary interview with one of you as a reporter and the other a member of the public talking what it’s like now that dark has been banned.

Design an anti-dark hat
Children could create their own design for an anti-dark hat. They could think about what they might use and how it could work and label their design.

Make a dark and light picture
Your child could make their own dark and light picture using black and yellow – charcoal would be perfect for this or black crayon with yellow pastel, crayon or paint for the light. They could draw a scene from the story or their own idea.

Experiment with torches
Create a dark space with curtains drawn and the lights off or a blanket over a table and shine a torch to look at the shape of the light and patterns you can create.

Write a news report
Your child could write their own imaginary news report about what happens when the dark is banned. Think up a headline together eg ‘We Need the Dark Back Say the People’. Your child could add their own drawing as if it is a photograph. Here is a template you could use.

Play a game
Use the opportunity of a larger gathering of family or friends to play Chinese whispers – a great way to introduce the idea of how rumours might spread. Start this off by making up a message and whispering it into the ear of someone else in the group – they pass the message on in the same way until everyone has heard the message. The last person then says what they heard out loud. Has the message changed? This is more fun with a group of 6 or more.

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