Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night
By Joyce Sidman
Illustrations by Rick Allen
Houghton Mifflin, 2010. 29 p. Juvenile nonfiction/poetry.
This recent recipient of a 2011 Newbery Honor couples really good writing with lovely illustrations. Sidman has written 12 poems about the night in a forest. Some are about animals, and others are about trees or the moon. Some of the poems are rhymed and metered, while others are free verse or concrete poems. The rhyming poems are lush and lyrical, with careful attention to meter and form. The free verse poems show sensitivity to the sound and rhythm of words.
Each of the poems is accompanied by a beautiful illustration done using the technique of etching. The artist puts down color, and then covers it with a black overcoat. Then he (Rick Allen in this case) scrapes away some of the black to reveal the color beneath. It is a good technique for a book about the night because it emphasizes the interplay of light and dark.
Finally, each spread has an information paragraph about the subject of the poem. The informational paragraphs are written in prose, but are so well crafted they are almost poem-like. Sidman includes some really interesting and unusual facts. The three elements combined--the good poetry, lovely illustrations and interesting information paragraphs make it a apt choice for Newbery Honor award.