The night’s a sea of dappled darkDark Emperor and other Poems of the Night is a picture book of poetry featuring the natural elements of the nighttime. Prior to the awards, I had looked at this title in terms of the Caldecott, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the book had a description of the illustration process. (Publishers, can we start doing this more with picture books? Thanks!) The artwork is made by relief printing, printed from different blocks in several colors, and then hand-colored. As noted by the illustrator, “There are definitely faster methods of making a picture, but few more enjoyable in a backwards sort of way.” The illustrations are amazing and detailed — especially in an early print, which shows many of the creatures the reader will discover in the coming poems. Personally, I found myself more drawn to the simpler, smaller pictures that accented each poem, but all of the prints were quite special.
the night’s a feast of sound and spark
the night’s a wild enchanted park.
Welcome to the night!
I wish I could say the same for the poetry, but I did not find the poems in this book to be anything out of the ordinary for a children’s book. It wasn’t bad poetry, but nothing gripped me in this book. I was disappointed, because I love two of Sidman’s other books. In last year’s Caldecott honors winner Red Sings from Treetops, I melted over the perfect phrasing and rhythms, and This Is Just to Say moved me with the expressions of apology and forgiveness. But the poems in Dark Emperor seemed flat. They were descriptive and even educational, but I didn’t connect to them. I also felt a little cheated by a book of poetry with only twelve poems. The rest of the required thirty-two pages were taken up with a full spread print to start and end the book, and informational description of each natural element in the poem, a table of contents, and glossary.
But look, I’ll admit that I’m no poetry buff or even particularly a poetry lover, so I’d welcome other opinions of this title. What did you think of it?
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