Saturday, April 12, 2014

Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night

Author:  Joyce Sidman
Illustrator:  Rick Allen
Published:  2010
Newbery Honor Book
This book of poems takes us from evening through the night all of the way to dawn.  Even the end papers are a signal of the passage of time.  The pages in the front are dark like night and the ones in the back are a light orange/pink like the sunrise.  The first and last pictures in the book are also closely related.  Looking at the first picture closely, you notice that the moon is rising and night life is awakening.  The owl is flying while the lights are on in the house.  In the last picture, the owl is resting on a branch, ready to rest for the day as the sun rises.  The lights are off in the house and the windows are open with a breeze blowing the curtains on the 2nd floor.

The writing in this book is in two parts.  One part is the poem and the second part is the information about the animals of the night.  The poem is on the page to the left with a picture of a wandering eft and sometimes of another creature as well.  The page on the right is primarily the picture of the life being described along with the factual information.  The pictures are framed, but the plants and animals tend to break through the border of the frame. 

The prints were made "by the process of relief printing."  A sketch "was transferred onto a sheet of linoleum mounted on wood, and the drawing is then cut and carved away...The areas left uncut are covered with ink and printed on paper by had or on a press." As I look at the pictures I notice lots of texture, colors, and shading - just like nature.  The artwork in this book is beautiful and I found myself searching through the picture for the creatures hidden in the foliage.

The first poem welcomes all of the animals of the night and then the poems progress with each waking critter as it travels through the trees, grass, the pond, or the air. There are some poems about trees and mushrooms too. The poem that stands out to me is Dark Emperor.  The Dark Emperor is the great horned owl.  This poem stands out because the words are laid out to resemble an owl.  The poem is told from the point of view of a small mouse who does not want to be found by the owl. 

The last three poems get us closer to dawn.  The wandering eft is a newt that is active both in day and night and lives in both water and on land at some point in its life.  The animals are falling asleep as the bat wraps himself off to hang on a branch at dawn.  Finally, the moon cries, "Where has everyone gone?"  The picture that accompanies the Moon's Lament shows the moon setting, the raccoon heading back to its tree, and the flowers closing their buds. 

The book has a glossary to help explain the different terms used on the pages with the facts.  Teachers could use this book along with Joyful Noise to teach about habitats and adaptations in science, parts of a book in language arts, and reading for comprehension of the poetry based on the facts that are provided.  I was not looking forward to reading this book, but thoroughly enjoyed the poetry and the pictures.  It is a beautiful book that I will use to teach.

By the way, Ms. Sidman's dog has a blogsite, so how could I not like her?  Visit Watson!

Check this book out from the library.
Joyce Sidman's website

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