Josiah's Reviews > Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman
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Jun 11, 11


Joyce Sidman is a very good poet. She navigates the sea of words with the expert helmsmanship of a seasoned admiral, steering around potential trouble spots so smoothly that we never even see where a less skilled poet could have very easily gone wrong.

Additionally, Joyce Sidman is an able nonfiction writer. She knows how to do her research and how to pick out exactly the kind of facts that will be fascinating to readers of any age or gender, which can be a really hard task. There's a lot in Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night that I had never heard before, even though I've always been a good science student in school. At the same time, the information isn't extremely complex or sophisticated, so one doesn't have to be a prodigious learner in order to grasp it.

From the start, both author and illustrator beautifully set the mood for us to read about the mysterious creatures of the night. One can almost see the stealthy raccoons making their way silently through the forest brush, or the majestic owl choosing what small and defenseless animal will serve as its prey on this particular night, or the orb spider spinning its unique artistic trap and then lying in wait for insect food to fly its way in and be caught in the web. Depending on the age group of the person (or people) reading this book, there's always the option of reading just the poetry, or just the little nonfiction blurbs that dissect each specific poem to bring to light other facts about the creatures being presented. Or, one can read it all, and receive information from both sources.

There are creatures that readers will easily recognize, and others that may be less familiar. Some of the poems are about night creatures that are fairly regional; for example, the orange lizard (aka "red eft"). I don't think that I've ever seen one of them around where I live, but after a summer's rain in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, one can't help but spot numerous orange lizards while taking a walk down the twisting country roads of the area. The fact that not all of the life forms talked about in this book can be found everywhere adds even a little bit more fascination to the observation of their ways, and perhaps makes it more interesting to go out ourselves and check to see how many of these creatures might be regularly hanging out in our own neighborhoods.

All in all, I would say that Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night works well as either poetry or nonfiction, or both. The artwork done by Rick Allen is totally incredible. If the Caldecott Medal were judged solely on the basis of illustrations, then I would have given it to this book for 2011, hands down. Any way you slice it, Dark Emperor is an enjoyable book that compares well with most other nonfiction picture books on the market.
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