Cynthia Diaz has written an atmospheric children’s story ripe with unease, foreboding, potential disaster and long-hidden secrets. In fact, Sunny & Cubby’s Real Life … Through the Darkness is downright frightening.
This modern take on the classic Hansel and Gretel fairy tale, complete with unacknowledged sexual tension worthy of Freud, tells of a little girl and boy who make the mistake of disobeying their parents. When they do, and venture much deeper into the mysterious forest than allowed, the children are soon profoundly lost and vulnerable.
After wandering aimlessly for a long time, their fear and discomfort grow. Suddenly, they stumble upon a cottage in the woods. At first they think the beautiful blond stranger they meet will help them. Later, when they sense the presence of a man hidden within the cottage and hear a cry for help from a terrified child, they realize they have been tricked: they’re in danger.
Quickly, the children dive deeper into the woods and begin a grim and frightening journey to find their way home. Only when they heed the advice of their mother and trust their own instincts for good are they released from their struggle and able to find their family and return to the cottage to save the kidnapped child.
This is a dark and scary tale, evocative of a classic Grimm fairy tale. That said, the story is too long for young readers, and the rambling narrative is sometimes confusing. As a result, the story’s tension dissipates. The author’s amateur illustrations, drawn in a childlike manner with pencil and crayon, further hamper the story’s effectiveness. Overall, this book would improve with editing for style, length and structure.