N_amandascholz's Reviews > Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night
Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night
by Joyce Sidman, Rick Allen
by Joyce Sidman, Rick Allen
This is a beautifully illustrated book of poetry. The illustrations “were made by a process of relief painting. A drawing or sketch is transferred onto a block of wood or…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.” The outcome is a lavishly detailed picture shadowed with soft light that mimics twilight, dawn or a delicate moonlight evening. The relief paintings are inviting and colorful, already reimaging night for young children as a place of great activity and welcome instead of place of silence and fright. This book would complement a science unit on the animals and plants of the forest. Each poem focuses on a creature (the raccoon, the snail, the spider) or a plant (mushrooms, oak tree), explaining lyrically information about it. On the opposite page, the author includes additional scientific facts and details that further illuminate the poems and pictures. For example, we learn that a scientist named A.E. Dolbear once figured out a formula that calculates the outside temperature based on how a fast a cricket sings with his wings. I would recommend this book of poems for children between three and ten. Younger children can enjoy the poems and the illustrations; they may not want to sit through the longer scientific explanations. The illustrations are vivid enough to serve as inspirations for younger readers own stories and poems. Younger readers can glean “lessons” or “advice” from these night voices like the cricket’s compulsion to “sing, sing, till the branches tremble and life swells to a single searing unstoppable sound.” Many children will recognize their own need for passionate and creative self-expression in the cricket’s voice. Older children certainly will enjoy the poems and pictures; however, they also will learn a great deal from the included science, matching the poetic images to the hard facts. Moreover, older readers may discuss some of the more philosophical elements of the poems like the wandering eft’s (a type of newt or salamander) conclusion that life is “rov[ing] till you’re weary, then return[ing] to the pond, where you’ll dream of your life as an eft vagabond.” In this image, older children may see the classic archetype of life as a cycle, where death is a type of return to a dream-state. The poems also hold lessons on literary terms like alliteration, metaphor, assonance or consonance. A teacher can use the text in this way as well, asking students to write their own night poems using some of these techniques. Joyce Sidman’s poems are good mentor text candidates. For all readers, I think this book wonderfully redefines nighttime as a world worth exploring instead of avoiding out of fear and misunderstanding.
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