Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman (Illustrated by Rick Allen)

Published in 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Poetry / Poetry Collections

Joyce Sidman's Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night is a beautifully illustrated book of poetry and prose that is delightful to read. One cannot review this book without paying special attention to the artwork. The illustrations were made by the process of relief painting; this process is described in detail at the beginning of the book:
Relief painting is when the artist takes a drawing or sketch and transfers it onto a block of wood, or in this instance, a sheet of linoleum mounted on wood, and then cuts and carves
away the drawing 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. There are definitely faster methods of making a picture, but few are more enjoyable in a backwards sort of way (front matter).
With the turn of each page, the reader is drawn into an amazing world that is not visible to the naked eye. Not only are the illustrations beautiful but the poems (on the left side of each page) and the prose passages (on the right side of each page) are equally exquisite. The opening poem welcomes readers 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 (6).

Sidman and Allen then take readers on a journey they will not soon forget by revealing a world that comes alive after the sun sets. On the left side of each page is a poem about a raccoon, a snail, a moth, an owl, a spider, a cricket, an eft, and a bat; these simple creatures, not often the topic of poetry or prose, are described in ways that make them seem important to what takes place when the sun goes down. The author also describes what life is like at night for the trees, the mushrooms, and even the moon as she uses personification to give them life-like qualities. On the right side of each page, Sidman uses prose to go into more detail about topics she addresses in each poem.

I found this book to be one of the most enjoyable books I have read this semester. The simple language (topics) and beautiful illustrations reveal another world not often seen, heard or spoken of in such an elegant way.

At the end of the book, a glossary defines terms with which readers may be unfamiliar, such as echolocation, stridulation, spinnerets, and ubi sunt. While reading this book, I learned many interesting facts about animals. For example, I wasn't aware that porcupines slept in trees and that baby porcupines were called porcupettes. I am certain that, if you read this book, you will learn something about animals, too. I highly recommend this book, especially for children who love animals. This is one book I will definitely add to my personal library.

Joyce Sidman's Official Website

Rick Allen Illustrations

Image Source

1 comment:

  1. I really liked this book, too! I had heard people going on and on about it, and didn't get it. I definitely "get it" now!