Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night

Joyce Sidman
Illustrator:  Rick Allen 
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 to 12
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010   ISBN: 978-0547152288

The sun is setting, and the world of light fades and becomes a world of shadow. Creatures that were asleep during the daylight hours emerge eager to find a meal. This is the time when raccoons shuffle out into the open, when mice dart from shadow to shadow, and when moths flutter towards any light they can find.

A snail “unhooks itself from earth” and inches up stems and leaves looking for “tasty morsels of green.” Above in the trees, an” owl, a “Dark Emperor” sits, listening to the “squeaks and skitters” below, waiting for that moment when it is ready to start hunting.

Unlike the creatures that move around beneath its bark and that roost in its branches, the oak is quiet, drinking its fill “slowly, slowly.” As the moon rises behind the tree, a baby “porcupette” comes out with its mother. The baby nurses and then its mothers goes off to find herself a meal. Though the youngster cannot climb trees yet, it knows it is safe, protected by its coat of quills.

In this award-winning title, poet Joyce Sidman takes readers on a special journey into a woodland at night. She introduces us to some of the sights that you might glimpse in such an environment after the sun sets. We meet a snail, a moth, a frightened mouse, an oak tree, a spider, a porcupine, a cricket, some mushrooms, an eft, a bat, and the moon. A section of informative nonfiction text accompanies each poem, providing the reader with further information about the topic mentioned in the poem.

Throughout the book, Rick Allen’s gorgeous woodcut illustrations provide a perfect backdrop for the poems and text. Layers of color and texture-filled details give the prints a depth that is both beautiful and startling.