Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night Book Poster Image
Award-winning poetry book is both scientific and magical.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

Kids learn about animals such as the cricket and the bat
-- and also get information about mushrooms, trees and the moon. An index at the end defines words
like "omnivorous" and "photosynthesis."

Positive messages

Shows the beauty of the nighttime world and encourages kids to learn about nocturnal animals through both poetry and scientific explanation.

Positive role models & representations

Parents can point out some of the amazing characteristics that can be found in nature -- such as the brave baby porcupine who, while small, states "But I can deal with any threat;/ I raise my quills/ and pirouette." ... or the tree that promises "to stand while all the seasons fly;/ to anchor earth,/to touch the sky."

Violence & scariness

Some discussion of predators. A mice, fearing detection from an owl, asks it to "disregard/ the tiny hiccup/ of my heart/ as I flee."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this poetry book about the plants and animals of the nocturnal world won a 2011 Newbery Honor from the American Library Association. Through verse, and a more scientific
description on an accompanying page, kids learn about animals such as the cricket and the bat
-- and also get information about mushrooms, trees, and the moon. An index at the end defines words
like "omnivorous" and "photosynthesis." Allen's striking linoleum cut prints work perfectly with the text as they somehow manage to be both scientific and magical. The verse probably works best when read aloud, especially for younger readers who may require some explanation along the way.

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What's the story?

Through 12 rich poems, the author reveals the beauty and diversity of the nocturnal world, which includes descriptions of trees, mushrooms, crickets, bats, and more. Each poem is illustrated with a striking scene of the featured subject in its natural setting, and includes a scientific description that explains how owls hear, how raccoons deftly use their front paws, etc.

Is it any good?

This book seamlessly weaves poetry together with facts about nature, so that kids will find each element of the book to be inspiring and educational. The striking, detailed illustrations capture the text perfectly, also managing to be both magical and scientific-looking. Kids -- and parents -- will see the beauty in the nocturnal world that Sidman's presents here, and be awed by the brave, clever, and industrious plants and animals "who wake at dusk and throw off sleep."

Parents and teachers who share this book may want to present only a few pages at a time so that kids can really study the rich words and drawings of this award-winning book.

The striking linoleum cut prints work perfectly with the text as they somehow manage to be both scientific and magical. Kids will have fun spotting the Wandering Elf, who travels with readers through the pages, visiting the nocturnal world.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the mix of poetry and scientific description here. Which do you find more interesting? Which is most educational?

  • Many people find the night to be a scary time. Does this book -- either the words or the pictures -- make you think of nighttime any differently?

Book details

For kids who love poetry

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