Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night

Written by Joyce Sidman
Illustrated by Rick Allen
When Nightfall Comes
By Janelle Pherson

The sky begins to fall,
The sun slowly travels with it


It begins to disappear.

Hues of orange and red,
A fiery glow—
Remind us of the day that has passed.

Pink and purple,
Soften the sky—
Gradually bringing nighttime to life.

A silence transpires,
But only for a moment

They come.

Intricate spirals.

Undetectable scents
Leading the way

Watching and waiting
Dinner awaits,
The hunted,
Ruefully unaware

Still as night,
Thirsty roots

Busy weaving
No need to search
A hard night’s work

Almost ready
To embark

A beautiful sound
Setting rhythm to the night.

Rising from the surface,
They magically appear.

Purple and Pink
Begin to saturate,
Signaling the end of night

Red and Orange
Fill the sky,
Telling all it is time to go home.
                                                                             It rises.

A new day has begun.

The Newbery Honor book, Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night, written by Joyce Sidman, is a beautifully crafted collection of poetry that invites us to be careful observers of night.  Life does not stop just because we are asleep. 

Poetry can be a difficult genre to appreciate.  For me, I know I never cared for poetry because I never felt I understood it the way I was supposed to.  I was afraid to verbalize my thinking for fear of being wrong.  When I was in school, the teacher had us analyze poems and made it seem like there was only one interpretation.

Sidman’s poems helped me to feel more comfortable with my interpretations and analysis.  Sidman included a side-note for each poem, which provided background information for the creature the poem was written about.  I felt this enabled me to truly appreciate and understand each poem.  I found that I read each side-panel before reading the poem.  I felt I could read between the lines and make inferences. 

In addition to providing a side-panel of factual information, Sidman coupled with illustrator Rick Allen to provide even more support for the interpretation of each poem.  Rick Allen’s illustrations were unique and intricate.  Done with gouache and the stamping of carved wooden blocks, Allen was able to add remarkable detail to each illustration.  It was almost as though I was outside looking through a magnifying flashlight.  He even tied the poems together by including the different creatures in each illustration.  For example, the eft is found roaming through each illustration—much like he does in the poem written about him.

This book of poetry does remind me of Joyful Noise, the 1989 Newbery Medal winner written by Paul Fleischman.  Joyful Noise was written for two voices and focuses on different insects and bugs in nature.  In contrast, Sidman’s book focuses on any nocturnal creature.  Both books provide insight into often ignored aspects of nature.  How often do you really think about the thoughts of a bug?  I would not have thought that either book would be that appealing seeing as though I do not care for most creepy and crawly creatures, but I do feel as though I have a new appreciation.  The next time the sounds of crickets gently rock me to sleep, I will not be able to help thinking of all of the other creatures stirring in the night. 


  1. Thanks for the "elf" spotting. I had to go back and capture this for myself!

  2. I am with you, Janelle with interpreting the poems. I love poetry but sometimes poems are difficult to understand. I think that is why people shy away from using them in classrooms. I will certainly be using these poems in my groups.