One Dark and Dreadful Night, by Randy Cecil

One Dark and Dreadful Night, by Randy Cecil

“Good evening…”

Standing in front of a red curtain, Maestro Von Haughty promises the reader “three tales of terror of misfortune” in “One Dark and Dreadful Night,” which will all be acted out on page-sized stage. He’s wearing a black top hat and an old-fashioned handlebar moustache, as he narrates the first story – “A Wolf in the Woods of Woe”. Standing at the side of the stage, he introduces a poor little peasant girl whose name is Lilly Riley-Hood. She’s sent to deliver a cake to her ailing grandmother on “one dark and dreadful night,” as the woods grow darker and darker…

The narrator tries, awkwardly, to create a sense of drama. As Lilly travels on her journey, even the trees grow more and more twisted, “and all the sharp pointy things grew sharper and pointier.” But in small letters in the illustrations, the young actress starts complaining about her part. And when the enormous wolf shows up, she announces “I don’t like the way this story is going,” then declares that she’d rather be a fairy princess.

At that point, the stage production falls apart, as she re-appears in a purple princess gown and starts redecorating the set. (“Kittens! Everything is better with kittens! And butterflies, and…”) The narrator re-asserts himself, insisting pompously that he’s going to stage a new story, and this time with no interruptions. (“No butterflies, no kittens, and especially no fairy princess!”) It looks like the story he’s telling is “Jack and the Beanstalk,” though it’s introduced with his new title: “The Beans of Doom.”

It’s a fun and funny book, and young readers should enjoy it, as three familiar fairy tales turn into clunky stage productions which quickly fall apart. From the top of the beanstalk come the ominous words – “Fee, Fie, Foe, Fum.”  But the narrator is startled to see that they’re coming from a giant yellow bunny. The enormous rabbit gets lowered to the stage by the young, wayward actress – still dressed in her purple fairy-princess gown.

The book’s title is “One Dark and Dreadful Night,” and it was written and illustrated by Randy Cecil. For this book, he uses quirky illustrations that look like they’re drawn with colored chalk. This complements the narrator’s dismal story-telling, but it leaves enough room for the book’s bright surprises. By the end of the story, the narrator’s stormed off in a huff, as the fairy princess cajoles all the other actors into joining her new production.

“A western with a giant bunny and kittens and butterflies!”

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