Poetry for Children
Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night
Sidman, Joyce. 2010. Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night. Illustrated by Rick Allen. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman is a collection of twelve poems about creatures of the woods that come out at night. There are poems about owls, snails, trees, spiders and bats. The book ends with the poem, The Moon’s Lament, about the end of the day and the beginning of a new day. This book shares poems about creatures that are active from dusk to dawn. The first poem is “Welcome to the Night,” which begins, “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.”
Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night would be a great book to take along on an overnight camping trip. Joyce Sidman’s book is a collection of poems and a science book. There is a column of factual information on each page and a science glossary at the end of the book. The illustrations by Rick Allen are dark and dramatic; especially the cover print of the great horned owl. Allen used the relief printing process to create the artwork for Dark Emperor. According to a note in the front of the book, “The prints for Dark Emperor were each printed from at least three blocks (and in some instances as many as six) and then hand-colored with a strongly pigmented watercolor called gouache.” These poems are sure to arouse interest and curiosity about the creatures of the night.
School Library Journal
Sidman continues her explorations of natural history in this set of poems about nocturnal life in the forest. As in her other collections, each selection is set in an expansive spread that includes a factual discussion of the featured subject. The illustrations are bold, richly detailed linoleum prints colored in gouache. The 12 poems are led by a scene setting “Welcome to the Night” and go on to feature 9 different creatures and some mushrooms with a concluding lament by the moon as night fades into morning. Sidman adroitly applies varied poetic forms and rhyme schemes. The title’s dark emperor, the great horned owl, lends its shape to the one concrete poem, and the closing lament is in the medieval style known as an ubi sunt. The poetry is reflective and at times philosophical. “Build a frame/and stick to it,/I always say./Life’s a circle….Eat your triumphs,/eat your mistakes:/that way your belly/will always be full…,” advises the night spider. Other poems are playful and some just a bit confusing. The porcupine poem explains that the infant of this species is known as a porcupette; the repeated use of “baby porcupette” seems oddly redundant. The bookmaking is beautiful with the concept of night lending itself generously to poetry. It invites lingering enjoyment for nature and poetry fans, and, as with Sidman’s earlier collections, it might be used with varied curriculums.
Like Sidman’s Caldecott Honor Book, Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems (2005), this picture book combines lyrical poetry and compelling art with science concepts. Here, poems about the woods at night reveal exciting biology facts that are explained in long notes on each double-page spread. In a poem about crickets, lines describe “the raucous scrape / of wing against wing,” while a prose passage explains that the cricket’s wing has a serrated “file,” which the cricket rubs against a hard “scraper” on its other wing to attract a mate, creating a sound called “stridulation” that can swell to deafening levels. The facts are further reinforced in the accompanying picture, which shows the small file on a cricket’s wing. In an opening note, Allen explains his elaborate, linoleum-block printmaking technique, and each atmospheric image shows the creatures and the dense, dark forest with astonishing clarity. Looking closely at a picture of a snail, for example, readers will see the physical detail, described in an adjacent poem, in the small animals’ moist, slug like bodies, “riding on a cushion of slime.” The thrilling title poem captures the drama of predator and prey: a mouse in the undergrowth flees an owl’s “hooked face and / hungry eye.” A final glossary concludes this excellent, cross-curricular title.
Discuss the creatures you see when you go camping.
Introduce a discussion about spending the night in the dark woods.
Ask who would like a wild creature for a pet?
Newbery Award Winner
Songs of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems ISBN: 978-0618135479
Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow ISBN: 978-0618563135
Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors ISBN: 978-0547014944
Special Author: Douglas Florian
lizards, frogs and polliwogs
Florian, Douglas. 2001. lizards, frogs and polliwogs. New York: HMN Books.
Douglas Florian’s book, lizards, frogs and polliwogs, is a collection of twenty one fun poems about reptiles and amphibians. In this book he tells of noisy peepers, sticky geckos that crawl up the walls, iguanas, tortoises and rattlesnakes in a fun and rhythmic way.
Florian features geckos, a glass frog and a rattlesnake. The book is filled with wordplay and puns that will entertain and amuse children of all ages. The poems are simple to read and flow well. Florian’s illustrations are creative, whimsical and colorful. This book is intended to be read aloud with its tongue twisting alliterative verse.
We are mad for poet-painter Douglas Florian. We were buzzed by Insectlopedia, moony for Mammalabilia, and batty for his other beautifully biological, biologically beautiful books as well. We love Florian for his clever, downright shameless wordplay. One of our favorite poems in Lizards, Frogs, and Polliwogs is “The Wood Frog”: I am a frozen frogsicle. I froze beneath a logsicle. My mind is in a fogsicle Inside this icy bogsicle. My temperature is ten degrees. I froze my nose, my toes, my knees. But I don’t care, I feel at ease, For I am full of antifreeze.
Like Florian’s Insectlopedia and Mammalabilia, this volume contains witty poems filled with comic word play–this time about 21 scaly, slimy creatures. With the droll verbal dexterity of J. Patrick Lewis and the just slightly naughty humor of Jack Prelutsky, Florian regales his readers with unexpected rhymes. “It’s wise to stay clear/ Of the dangerous cobra,” he warns, “all the months of the year,/ Including Octobra.” A picture of a costumed child holding a jack-o’-lantern is accompanied by the verse “I wouldn’t wanna/ Be an iguana–/ Except for Halloween.” From the Midwife Toad (“On Dad’s back the eggs are toted./ To his kids he’s toadally devoted”) to the Poison-Dart Frogs, Florian finds mischievous reptile lore that will make young readers laugh. At first glance his illustrations seem less varied than in the previous books, but these bug-eyed amphibians have a low-key style of their own. The newt reads the “Newt News” paper, and the Glass Frog camouflaged on a leaf labels various parts of the painting either “me” or “leaf.” The medium is different, too: here Florian uses watercolors and collage elements atop brown paper bags. The warm, familiar tones and soft lines belie the idiosyncrasy of the compositions–these frogs and friends don’t necessarily jump out at readers, but continually take them by surprise.
Discuss the care and feeding of reptiles and amphibians.
Consider the pros and cons of having a rattlesnake for a pet.
Ask who has a lizard or an iguana or a frog for a pet.
insectlopedia ISBN: 978-0152163358
mammalabilia ISBN: 978-0152050245
Beast Feast: Poems ISBN: 978-0152017378
Novels in Verse
Frost, Helen. 2009. Crossing Stones. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Helen Frost’s novel in verse, Crossing Stones, is the story of Muriel Jorgensen, her brother Ollie and their neighbors Frank and Emma Norman, and the tragedies the two families endure during WWI. Muriel is fascinated by the women’s suffrage movement but she is told to keep her thoughts and opinions to herself. An Influenza epidemic threatens members of both families as Muriel begins to cross into a new and changing world, stone by stone.
Helen Frost’s novel in verse, Crossing Stones, is a beautifully written story about two neighboring families and how WWI brings tragedy and change into their lives. Frost’s use of novel in verse allows each character to tell his or her own story and this is what appeals to young readers. It is simply written and easy to understand and follow. The illustration provided by Ms Frost on the cover print of Muriel leaning against the apple tree is very telling.
School Library Journal
The children of the Norman and Jorgensen families have grown up together, with their family farms located on either side of Crabapple Creek. In 1917, the outbreak of World War I shatters their idyllic lives: strong-willed Muriel opposes it, but the two young men, Frank and her brother, Ollie, enlist and are soon sent overseas. Muriel’s lively personality comes alive in free-verse poems that roam across the page like the free-flowing waters of the creek. “My mind sets off at a gallop/down that twisty road, flashes by ‘Young Lady,’/hears the accusation in it—as if it’s/a crime just being young, and ‘lady’/is what anyone can see I’ll never be/….” The poems of Ollie and friend Emma are written in “cupped-hand” sonnets; their rounded shapes resemble the crossing stones of the creek and record their growing love. While the young men find themselves amidst the horrors of trench warfare, their families attempt to cope with their absence. Muriel travels to Washington, DC, to be with her aunt Vera, a suffragist who is recovering from a hunger strike; joins picketers at the White House; and helps out in a settlement house. Back home, youngest sister Grace comes down with influenza. Frost’s warmly sentimental novel covers a lot of political, social, and geographical ground, and some of the supporting characters are not fully fleshed out. But this is Muriel’s story, and her determined personality and independence will resonate with readers, especially those who’ve enjoyed the works of Karen Hesse.—
Frost skillfully pulls her characters back from stereotype with their poignant, private, individual voices and nuanced questions, which will hit home with contemporary teens, about how to recover from loss and build a joyful, rewarding future in an unsettled world.”—
With care and precision, Frost deftly turns plainspoken conversations and the internal monologues of her characters into stunning poems that combine to present three unique and thoughtful perspectives on war, family, love and loss. Heartbreaking yet ultimately hopeful, this is one to savor.”—
Ask students if they have had a relative who was a soldier.
Introduce a discussion about living on a farm.
Discuss how the world has changed since 1917.
Hidden ISBN-10: 0374382212
Diamond Willow ISBN-10: 0312603835
The Braid ISBN-10: 0374309620