Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night - beautiful poetry for nature lovers (ages 7 - 14)

As we celebrate Earth Day, I'd like to take a moment from our busy schedules and revel in some appreciation of the natural world around us. Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night is a beautiful combination of poetry, information and artwork that I found both inspiring and mesmerizing. I'm not sure how many children will pick it up on their own, but it would make a wonderful addition to a home, classroom or school collection - something to dip into when you want something refreshing and inspiring. It would make a lovely year-end gift to a teacher with a special love of nature.
Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night (Booklist Editor's Choice. Books for Youth (Awards))Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night
by Joyce Sidman
illustrated by Rick Allen
NY: Houghton Mifflin
ages 7 – 14
available on Amazon or your local library
In this collection of 12 poems, award-winning poet Joyce Sidman combines evocative poetry with keen observations of nature. She asks us to slow down and observe the world that comes alive after dark, whether it’s the stolid oak tree, crickets or the night spider. Combining poetry, striking illustrations and detailed scientific information, this collection will intrigue children (and adults!) who are keen observers of the natural world around them.

The first poem in the collection begins:
“Come feel the cool and shadowed breeze,
come smell your way among the trees,
come touch rough bark and leathered leaves:
Welcome to the night.”

-- from "Welcome to the Night", by Joyce Sidman
Sidman brings readers right into the night, the world that comes alive when we humans have left and gone to bed. She wonders how these nocturnal animals live in the night, the skills they need to survive, the rhythm and pace of their night time world. Come experience a night in the woods, taking time to study the flora and fauna.

The video below will give you a sense of the way Rick Allen's artwork fits Sidman's poetry so perfectly. I love the way they use sounds of the night to draw my attention right in. I just wish the producers of the book trailer had included Sidman reading aloud one of her poems. To listen to Sidman's beautiful voice reading two poems from this collection, head over to Teaching Books.

This beautiful book has already won many awards including the 2011 Newbery Honor Award, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor, CBC Bank Street Best Book of the Year, NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book, and Cybils Poetry Award Finalist. Wow!

If you enjoy this blend of beautiful poetry and interesting science, I'd highly recommend exploring Sidman's other work including: Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature's Survivors, Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems, and Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow.

For more poetry to share with your children, be sure to check out Poetry Friday, a weekly celebration of poetry by bloggers in the Kidlitosphere. This week's celebration is being hosted by Kate Coombs at the Book Aunt. She has a lovely review of Compost Stew (which we love at our school!), and will share other poetry links throughout the day.

The review copy came from our home library collection. If you'd like to know how much I loved this - I gave this book to my mother for her Christmas present! If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.


  1. This is such a fantastic book, Mary Ann!

    Snail at Moonrise is one of my favorite poems in it. Only a poem could make me look at a snail and see beauty instead of mush and slime.

  2. This book sounds a lot like the book I reviewed today call Deep in the Desert. I am going to see if her books are available at the library. Thanks for the suggestion.

  3. Both Dark Emperor and Ubiquitous were chosen as NCTE Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts! I love their mash-up of science and poetry!