Perfect Picture Book Friday! Ruth Brown’s A Dark, Dark Tale

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday, and Halloween is coming! I’ve chosen one of my son’s favorite books, which he remembers as being “really, really scary.” We read it over and over and always had a good laugh at the end. He is 14 now and still remembers how he felt reading it… I think that’s a pretty strong recommendation!

Check out Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog feature Perfect Picture Book Fridays. She has compiled a complete list with links to resources for home and the classroom. It’s awesome!


Title: A Dark, Dark Tale

Author/Illustrator: Ruth Brown

First published by Anderson Press Ltd, 1981


Ages: 3-5 years

Theme: Halloween, bravery

Opening: “Once upon a time there was a dark, dark moor.”

Synopsis: Children will delight in following the black cat’s progress through the dark wood, into the dark house, and eventually to the surprise discovery at the back of the toy cupboard, in this mysterious, beautifully illustrated picture book.(from Goodreads)

Resources and ideas: Lesson plans at MyBookez. Game of I Spy, looking for all the animals, especially the cat; cutouts and collages of cats, owls, trees, spooky houses, bats, moon, etc.; layered collage with doors opening to reveal something beneath; create a new story following the pattern of repetition and rhythm in the text.

What I thought: I loved the atmosphere created by the illustrations and the repetition in the text and in the imagery. Even though a different spooky place is featured on each spread, the words “dark, dark” and the black cat lead the way through each page turn. The tension builds as the cat leads us to smaller and smaller places. What are we going to find? The anticipation reaches a climax and is delightfully resolved on the final page.


Categories: Books we love, Reviews | Tags: , , , , | 20 Comments

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20 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday! Ruth Brown’s A Dark, Dark Tale

  1. What a lovely choice for Halloween. I love the tension you mention in the book — sure to keep kids tugging at the covers wondering what happens next. Great share today!

  2. This book could be inspiration for Susanna’s Halloweensie contest! I love the book cover illustration.

  3. Joanna

    Oo, that cover sets the tone for some real creepy!

    Also, I love the capybara in your header!

  4. I’m SO glad you’ve joined us, Beverly! This book looks like just the right mix of scary and fun. Thanks so much for adding it to our list! (And I agree with Jarm – this COULD be an inspiration for the Halloweensie Contest! :))

    • Thanks, have you read it before? I was so happy to have a place to share one of our favorites with other picture book people. I have a lot of precious memories associated with that book.

  5. Beverly, is that a capybara reading a book? Where on earth did you find that image? I am cracking up. Thanks for another great Halloween book find.

    • Kirsten, I found the adorable capybara picture on the blog of Melanie Typaldos, who generously gave me permission to use the photo of her pet Caplin Rous. Caplin is reading Melanie’s book, Celeste and the Giant Hamster, which I will be reviewing shortly! Check her out at Glad you liked A Dark, Dark Tale!

  6. This sounds wonderful, Beverly! In fact, based on the cover image, and your 14-year-old saying he still remembered how he felt when he read it, sent me to our library’s website to request it even before I read your review! I can hardly wait to read it.

    (And I LOVE the capybara!)

    • Thank you Beth, I thought it was amazing that he still remembers reading it. I hope you like it!

      • I just read it (October 31st, 8:45 p.m. here). Although it arrived at the library a few days ago, from an out-of-town branch, I’ve been saving it for Halloween night, and I’m so glad I did! It’s deliciously spooky. LOVE the illustrations and the text. Following the cat was a creepy delight. Thank you so much for introducing me to it!

  7. There is no better recommendation than a child’s love for a book. I’ll have to find this one so we can fall in love with it too. Thanks.

    • I’m so glad I decided to share my son’s feelings about the book. I was surprised when he said he remembered it, then we talked for several minutes about how he remembers it. Ruth Brown rocks!

  8. Stacy S. Jensen

    Great choice and fun activities. Thanks for sharing your son’s love for it.

  9. Sounds like a cool book! The cover looks very good. Very spooky (also very appropiate for the season)!

  10. Julie Eagle

    Hello Beverley, I have found myself on this page in September 2019 (!) having only recently discovered Ruth Brown’s picture books and her lovely, atmospheric illustrations. I ‘sort of’ collect children’s picture books (in particular those that feature cats) and A Dark, Dark Tale is quite a favourite. My daughter is grown up now and we still share a love of books; I do show her some of the children’s books I come across that I think she will appreciate too. We’ve been remembering her most favourite storybook with a cat when she was little, which was called ‘Emily & Mr Prendergast’ by Shirley Isherwood. He is a real character. (Another favourite by Ruth Brown is ‘Gracie, the Lighthouse Cat’ which is both lovely to look at and clever, as there are two stories about rescues woven together, a mother cat rescuing her kitten and, in the background (in pictures) the subtle telling of the story of Grace Darling.

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