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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Review: Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night

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

There are twelve poems in this book. Each poem is focused on a different animal that comes out at night. They are sequenced so that they read like a story. It starts out with a welcome to the night and ends with the bat, specifically, finding a place to hide for the day time. The poem is on the left page and on the far right, there is more information about the animal that the poem is talking about. It provides details and facts about each animal and what it does at night. It is a great source of information for the reader.
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. (p. 6)
I thought this part of the first poem, Welcome to the Night was funny because it reminded me of the summer before my senior year of high school. I used to wake up super late (like 4pm!), go to work, then stay up all night, and go to sleep really late and repeat. I don’t even know what I was doing all that time… probably playing The Sims. :)

I liked the way the author used white space when writing the poem, Dark Emperor (p. 12). I think the wording was meant to be in the shape of the great horned owl, which it is talking about.

The author uses a lot of language that appeals to the sense and creates imagery for the reader. “Rough bark and leathered leaves” (p. 6), “tiny sandpaper tongue” (p. 8), and “they [mushrooms] spread their damp umbrella tops” (p. 22) all are creative uses of words to describe something with about these animals (or mushrooms!) and they let the reader relate them to something they already know about.

I liked how the author mixed up the type of poems used in the book. Some poems were two rhyming lines and some were three rhyming lines with the same line written in each stanza. Some poems were in shapes and some didn’t seem to have any pattern. I think the variety is good for children to see because one way to evaluate poetry is on the form used. Children would see that there is not only one way to write poetry and they could find a poem in this book to use as an example for their own writing.

I thought it was cool that the eft, an animal like newts and salamanders, was drawn on every page. Each picture of the eft corresponds with the animal that the poem is talking about, which I thought was a creative way to tie the pages together. It also helps illustrate the Ballad of the Wandering Eft (p. 24).

The illustrations in this book are beautiful. They were done by Rick Allen with a method called relief printing. The book talks about the details 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 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 more enjoyable in a backwards sort of way.”

So this method is very time consuming, but creates beautiful images that are extremely detailed and colorful. Most of the illustrations are dark, but this is a poem about night, so that makes sense. All of the images, except the first and last pages’ full bleed two page spreads, are framed, but they all have some part of the picture coming outside of the frame. I think that invites the reader into the picture or to show how big the night time really is, that it can’t all fit in this one framed picture.

The endpapers were different colors. The front endpapers were dark and purple to show that we were coming into the story and night. The last endpapers were light and salmon colored to show the sun was rising and the day was about to start.

At the end of the book there is a glossary of terms that were used in the book. Words like antennae, echolocation, nocturnal, spinnerets, and stridulation that are used in the poems. This would help the reader understand the meaning of each poem because not everyone knows the definitions of these words.

I’m not a big fan of poetry and from reading my children’s literature textbook, I found out that only 14% of adults in the United States read or listen to poetry. I think this may be because as children we had to evaluate poetry so much that we don’t enjoy it anymore. I did find this book to be an interesting story and I think it would be a good way for a teacher to talk about nocturnal animals.

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