Title: Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night
Author: Joyce Sidman
Illustrator: Rick Allen
ISBN: 9780547152288
Pages: 32 pages
Publisher/Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, c2010.

“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.” (6)

With these opening lines, Joyce Sidman presents a collection of twelve poems describing the forest night life. From the tiniest snails to the mightiest oak tree, her poetry presents a typical night as animals and plants stir, eat, grow, and then fall back to sleep with the setting of the moon. I’m partial to the rythmic and ryhming poems, such as “Welcome to the Night,” “Oak After Dark,” and “Ballad of the Wandering Eft.” While the poems are on the left hand page, a small inset accompanying a detailed picture (more about that later) gives factual information about the animal (or plant) in the poem on the right hand page. The information is intended for young audiences, featuring little-known facts like “most orb spiders eat their damaged webs” or “young snails add a layer to their shells each night.”

While the poetry varies from rhyming couplets to more free verse, the illustrations by Rick Allen are uniformally stunning. People interested in learning how the pictures are made should look at the copyright page, where it gives a short tongue-in-cheek description that “There are definitely faster methods of making a picture, but few more enjoyable in a backwards sort of way.” In fact, I’m kind of disappointed that it got a Newbery Honor but nothing from Caldecott.

The detail that went into these photos prints is impressive. (That little goof just proves how much I admire the pictures.) The owl on the cover is the first clue that this is not your typical picture book of poetry. The leaves pop from the page, and there is texture on the tree bark that makes you think it’s a touch and feel book. On most of the scenery pages, readers can hunt for a tiny red eft (like a newt or salamander) amongst the leaves, grass, and mushrooms. I wish that the newt had been included on all the pages, because you miss him on the pages he isn’t present.

A must buy for nature lovers, poetry lovers, and art lovers alike.