Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night

by Joyce Sidman
illustrated by Rick Allne

From the beginning of this book we are introduced with a full bleed spread as the owl is awakening and the sun is setting.  Joyce Sidman is the author of this Newberry Honor Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night.  The collection of poems begins with;

Welcome to the Night
“To all of you who crawl and creep,
who buzz and chirp and hoot and peep,
 who wake at dusk and throw off sleep:
Welcome to the night.” 
Joyce Sidman provides twelve poems that take us into the forest at night.  From the tiniest creatures of snails, crickets, and spiders to the Dark Emperor, the owl.  From mushrooms to trees, Sidman uses varied poetic forms throughout this book from rhyme to free verse. It helps reveal the mystery behind why and how animals are active at night.
  The poems are on the left side of the page with a small illustration on the bottom right corner of that page.  On the right side of the page, there are framed illustrations that reflect the insect, plant or animal being described.  These illustrations take up about three-fourths of the page.  To the right of the illustration is a sidebar that provides factual information about the insect, plant, or animal. 
The “Dark Emperor” is written in the shape of the owl.  However, the voice is the perspective of a mouse that is terrified by his predator.  “Oak After Dark” really gives the reader a new perspective.  One must look and think about a tree in a different way after reading this poem.  Most people think about a tree making clean air for us to breathe, but I doubt that we think about the animals that live there.  “While beetles whisper in my bark,/ while warbles roost in branches dark.” 
These poems will no doubt be appealing to many children.  These poems are not too complex or abstract and will no doubt encourage the reader to think and ask questions.  I think it is great that the sidebar information is provided and will answer some of the questions that the reader may have.  The language encourages the reader to think and imagine in different ways.  When describing the oak tree, “to stand while all the seasons fly, / to anchor earth, / to touch the sky.”
Rick Allen’s illustrations are amazing.   There is information provided on the dedication page that shares how these illustrations were created.  “The prints in this book were made by the process of relief printing.  A drawing or sketch is transferred onto a block of wood or, in this instance, a sheet of linoleum mounted on wood, and the drawing is then cut and carved away using a variety of tools.  The areas left uncut are covered with ink and printed on paper by hand or on a press; a number of blocks can be cut and then successively printed in different colors, with the different blocks being “registered” or aligned to create a multicolored print.  The prints for Dark Emperor were each printed from at least three blocks (and in some instances as many as six) and then hand colored with a strongly pigmented watercolor called gouache.” 
This book is well thought out from the cover to cover.  From the endpapers, title page, the full bleed double page spreads as the sun is setting in the beginning to the full bleed double page spread at the end.  The book ends with “Moon’s Lament” as it questions where everything is going.
 “Where has it all gone-
 my glory,
my radiance-
now that day has come?
 Alas. Another eternity of sunbeams to wait."
 There is a glossary to define some of the scientific vocabulary at the end.


  1. I like how you found so much information on the drawings! Thanks!

  2. I did not notice until I read your post that the Dark Emperor poem was shaped like an Owl! Thank you for bringing that to my attention. I too appreciate your in-depth analysis of the illustrations.