Thursday, January 13, 2011

Book Review: Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night (2011 Newbery Honor Winner)

After the fairly surprising 2011 Newbery winners announcement, I'm trying to read the 4-out-of-5 Newbery winners that I hadn't even read.  So I started with the easiest of the four:  a book of poetry entitled Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman.

I have to say that I just don't get this book as a Newbery winner.  Don't get me wrong--it's a lovely book.  It contains a poem about some denizen of the night on the left page, with a beautiful block printed and then hand colored picture on the right page, along with a column of some scientific facts about that creature on the right-hand side of the page.  The poetry is quite good and evokes a lot of senses, particularly sound and feeling (as is appropriate for a book about the night).  The scientific information is interesting if not extensive.  The pictures are gorgeous; in fact, I could more easily see this as a Caldecott winner than as a Newbery.

I guess my real issue is that the writing doesn't seem THAT phenomenal to me, and the concept isn't that much different than other books I've read.  And it also seems rather slight to me, as the entire book only contains 12 poems.  However, because it contains several different forms of poetry, including rhymed couplets, free verse, and a beautiful owl-shaped concrete poem that the animal lovers in my fall poetry class would have loved, it is a great curriculum resource for an introductory poetry class.  I would classify it as an upper elementary level book, rather than middle school, although it is sophisticated enough that middle schoolers and above can also appreciate it.

So I don't know...obviously, the Newbery Committee sees something that I missed.  I certainly enjoyed it, but I would not have given this book one of these highly-coveted award.  But I'm open to education!  If anyone else really loves this book, please let us know why in the comments section below.

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