When you decide to create an in-home library for your grandchildren, searching for the best books to add to it can become a great adventure - time consuming, yes, but also fun and rewarding. People start suggesting their own favorites, you find yourself making notes on booklists gleaned from dozens of sources and - most fun of all - you sometimes just sort of stumble across a book while looking for something else and it becomes a treasured addition to your collection. This book, Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, falls into that last category. In this case, it was the owl on the cover that caught my eye - probably because I'd just recently seen the film Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'hoole. The owl was enough to make me take the book down from the shelf, but it was the wonderful content that had me putting Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night into my buy pile.
I loved this book on my first read through, captivated by the unexpected, but somehow perfect, mixture of poetry and science. Apparently, had I been familiar with author Joyce Sidman who has employed this combination in previous books such as Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow and Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems, this combination would not have surprised me. (Both of these earlier books now reside on my Wish List.)
In her latest book, Sidman welcomes us to the night, inviting us to learn about the creatures that inhabit it and to witness the changes to ordinary things after the sun has set. Poems, composed in a variety of styles, introduce us to several night creatures - a moth, a snail and the Great Horned Owl depicted on the cover, among others. Alongside the poems are related facts told in accessible, but not simplistic or dumbed-down language. This is interesting stuff - the sort of facts kids and those reading to them will enjoy learning and will remember. I'd never heard the word porcupette (a baby porcupine) before, nor did I know that snails added a layer to their shell every night or exactly how the legs of crickets produced their chirps. Learning right along with my grandkids as I read to them added an extra layer of enjoyment to this book.
Rick Allen's detailed linoleum prints - a style I don't see with great regularity - complement verse and prose perfectly and a very helpful glossary is also included.
As my library for kids and young adults continues to grow, I hope I stumble across more treasures like this one. I'm excited about adding Sidman's earlier works to my collection - and to seeing what I'll learn from them.