Each look reveals new, fabulous details: the dusk and dawn double-page spreads that begin and end the book. The eft, a newt-like creature, that stars in his own poem (“Come all you young efts,/ so brave and so bold”) but creeps onto each page, even the verso. The fact that the illustrations are made by the process of relief printing – “there are definitely faster methods of making a picture, but few more enjoyable in a backwards sort of way.” The richness of the poems – a compelling combination of ordinary and grand, from the “perched missile” of the great horned owl to “the tiny hiccup/ of my heart” described by the fleeing mouse. The way information – both necessary and fun – has been condensed for the unobstrusive sidebars, tucked next to the illustrations in a smaller print than the poems.
Source: my public library
PS – Dark Emperor took the gold in the Oakland Public Library’s Mock Newbery, and I totally would have voted for it if it had been on the OLA/WLA list. Sidman’s other book this year, Ubiquitous, has been getting some love on “best of the year” lists, but so far I’ve only seen Dark Emperor on the Horn Book’s Fanfare list – I hope it gets more love come awards time.