Recess in the Dark - Poems from the Far North
Recess in the Dark is a unique collection of poems that offers a new perspective on how students live in the Canadian North, complete with stunning illustrations of our country's natural beauty.
Share the magic of poetry with the next generation of young authors.
Hard Cover Book
Author: Kalli Dakos
Illustrator: Erin Mercer
Ages: 6 and up
Dimensions: 8" x 10"
Recess in the Dark
Canvas – Recess in the Dark – Gary’s Polar Snow Bear
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Recess in the Dark
Book and Tote Bag – Recess in the Dark – Pack of Wolves
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Recess in the Dark
Book and Tote Bag – Recess in the Dark – Northern Magic
Recess in the Dark
Book and Tote Bag – Recess in the Dark – Love and Honour
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Recess in the Dark
Book and Canvas – Recess in the Dark – The Northern Lights
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Kalli Dakos has been delighting readers with poetry since the release of her best-selling book, If You’re Not Here, Please Raise Your Hand. She has written six IRA/CBC Children’s Choice Selections, such as Our Principal Promised to Kiss a Pig and A Funeral in the Bathroom.
A former teacher and reading specialist, Dakos taught at Sir Alexander Mackenzie School in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada. She returns on author visits to encourage the children to write about their fascinating lives above the Arctic Circle. This book was inspired on one of these trips, when “recess in the dark” was chosen as a favourite writing topic.
Dakos frequently celebrates a love of reading in schools all over Canada and the United States, and sometimes as far away as Hong Kong. She has an office in Ogdensburg, New York, and lives in Ottawa, Canada.
Erin Mercer is an up-and-coming children’s book illustrator living in Toronto, Canada, where she also produces greeting cards and fine art for artisan markets. She has even worked for Canadian video game studios!
Her colourful, whimsical aesthetic focuses on characters and storytelling, and she loves to inject humour into her work. She mixes traditional and digital media, merging her background in fine arts and concept art.
She enjoys an active lifestyle, cooking, attending live theatre, and traveling, all of which influence her artwork. See more from Mercer on her website: www.pencilempire.com.
Critic: Dave Jenkinson
I have three,
and I’m heading out for recess...
With a flashlight!
An intriguing title and enticing cover art will draw young readers into this amusing and informative collection of 25 poems (with the back cover text providing a bonus of two additional poems, one being the excerpt above). A concluding “About the Authors” note introduces the poet, Kalli Dakos, and explains how Recess in the Dark: Poems from the Far North came to be:
A former teacher and reading specialist, Dakos taught at Sir Alexander Mackenzie School in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada. She has returned on author visits to encourage the children to write about their fascinating lives above the Arctic Circle. This book was inspired on one of those trips, when “recess in the dark” was chosen as a favourite writing topic.
As part of her “Dedication”, Dakos says the book is “For the children who live in the land where Recess in the Dark is a part of their lives, and for those who will have the opportunity to explore this amazing experience through these poems.” As the book’s contents reveal, what children in the “Far North” encounter during recess is quite unlike that experienced by their peers in more southern climes. Readers closer to the 49th parallel can only imagine what it would be like to go to school in the dark, have recess outside in the dark, and then go home in the dark, never once seeing the sun, but that is what children in Inuvik experience for some 30 consecutive days every year when the sun never appears.
The collection begins with the poem, “A Warning for Wimpy Kids”, that underlines recess in the Far North is “colder than a freezer, wild bleak, and dark” and that “Recess in the Dark is for the strong who live up here.” The contents of the next 23 poems provide insights into various aspects of playing outside at recess when “The Sun Won’t Shine”. Imagine seeing the stars or the Northern Lights at recess time. Normal playground structures are supplemented by igloos and ice slides, and common games, like Hide and Seek, take on new dimensions when played in the dark. Five poems, “Under the Stars”, “Lucy and Her Frozen Belly Button”, “Gary’s Underwear”, “Frozen Toes” and “My Rabbit Mittens”, address the need to dress appropriately for the North’s extreme cold. But the 24 hour darkness must eventually end, and the last two poems, “Gary’s Polar Snow Bear” and “We Have Light”, acknowledge the welcome return of some sunlight.
Most of the poems are given their own two-page spread. In addition to the poem’s text, Dakos adds a sentence or two at the bottom of the page with that text providing some factual information connected to the poem’s content, For example, below “A Raven”, readers are informed that: “Most birds fly to warmer climates in the winter, but the raven laughs in the face of the cold winds as if to say, ‘You can’t make me leave.’” Similarly, in “Dog Team”, when the children create their own dog team from snow, Dakos adds the information: “Dog teams are still used in the North because they are safer than snowmobiles. A snowmobile can break down, but the dogs are reliable.”
Erin Mercer’s lively artwork, digital paintings created by using pencil, pastel and oil brush packs, adds significantly to the collection’s impact. She effectively renders scenes in the colours one associates with winter’s darkness - the blues and purples of the nighttime snow, the black night sky punctuated by pinpricks of stars’ distant light or lit up by the Northern Lights’ dancing greens, yellows and reds, or the full moon’s almost unnatural reflected brightness. The coloured winter clothing of Mercer’s muffled cartoon characters allows them to stand out in the daytime darkness.
Recess in the Dark: Poems from the Far North would be a most worthwhile addition to school and public libraries.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He once spent a week in Inuvik in August. Should he ever write a book of poetry about this experience, it would have to be called “Sleeping in the Light” as the sun never really set during his visit.
More fantastic poetry for "National Poetry Day" with "Recess in the Dark" by Kalli Dakos and Erin Mercer
Time for a thoroughly original collection of poems and verses to celebrate National Poetry Day today, and a superb picture book poetry anthology from way, way across the Atlantic Ocean.
"Recess in the Dark" by Kalli Dakos and Erin Mercer is a fabulous and diverse collection of poems based around what life is like in the extreme far north of Canada.
As winter begins to bare its teeth, the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer - can you imagine playing Hide and Seek during school break - but in the dark?
...Or playing outside wrapped up in many, many layers of clothes?
Each poem playfully looks at life from many perspectives, but mostly through the eyes of children who have fun and enjoy the amazing nature and sights and sounds from this amazing place they call home.
The illustrations are fab too, with tons of fun characters and lots of busy kids having fun in their wintry wonderland.
From "Frozen Toes" to "The Call of the Wild" - Each poem has a sense of fun about it, perfect for read-aloud poem and story time at school, or just to curl up with at this time of year with a nice cup of hot chocolate and perhaps a friendly wolfcub or two enjoying each poem!
Sum this book up in a sentence: A superb anthology of poems depicting life in the far north of Canada where winters seem endless and they still get 'real' snow!
"Recess in the Dark" by Kalli Dakos and Erin Mercer is out now, published by DC Canada Education Publishing (kindly supplied for review).
Critic: Sue Morris
Why I like this book:
I fell in love with Recess in the Dark once I saw the illustrations. I love the dark, star-filled backgrounds and the colorful parka-wearing kids who seem to pop off the page—and many may wish to, given the cold air that far up north. Then I read the poetry. I know it’s been said at least a dozen times; poetry is difficult to write correctly. But people still attempt it, maybe because it’s a challenge. The poetry in Recess in the Dark will either bring down the wonderful illustrations or make those images soar. They soar!
The poetry is easy to read aloud. There is a singsong effect to many of them. The first is a warning to readers: if you don’t like the cold, don’t venture to the artic north where these kids live. It is cold. For the winter months, it is also dark . . . all the time. The second poem tells readers how the sun doesn’t shine during the winter. This darkness can only make the cold feel even colder. I cannot imagine going outside in such frigid weather, but these kids do. If you can handle the cold, there are prizes for your efforts: the stars and the Northern Lights.
Other poems talk about what kids do during the cold and dark recess. They wear multiple layers from their head to their toes, enabling them enjoy hide-n-seek and sliding down icy mounds of snow, built up from the whipping wind. Unlike most schools, kids build and play in igloos and they sculpt figures out of the fallen snow.
Kids lucky enough to have story hour will enjoy hearing these poems. Middle grade kids will also enjoy Recess in the Dark. Teachers can find many related subjects to enhance the poems. (The Northern Lights, using dog sleds for travel, building igloos, and the lack of sunlight during the artic winter.) One nice added element appears in smaller print. Under the illustration, the author explains things many kids may not understand, if they don’t live in frigid northern Canada.
Recess in the Dark is a fun read, it is informative, and it will have kids wondering what it would be like to go to school, and recess, completely in the dark. But when summer arrives, there are no dark skies. The sun shines twenty-four hours a day. Now, that I would like. Maybe a sequel will tell us about life in the light of day, even at night.
From The Northern Lights, verses 2 and 3.
The colours stream
in blues and greens
with blazing, golden rays.
They light the night
with wild light
cross the Milky Way.
We cannot run,
we cannot play,
we cannot even speak.
In a daze,
we just gaze
until our legs go weak.
Critic: Carmelita Cechetto-Shea
Recess in the Dark is a collectionof twenty-five poems (with two extra poems on the back cover) celebrating life in the far north. Written by Kalli Dakos and illustrated by Erin Mercer, this delightful and fun poetry collection is created from the perspective of children. Each poem provides the reader with a glimpse of life in the dark and cold.
The first poem A Warning for Wimpy Kids sets the stage for further reading; the poem tells readers not to venture to the north if they don’t like the cold and/or darkness. Once readers pass the “warning” poem, the poems detail many wonderful aspects of life in a cold and dark place. The children of the north seem to enjoy their environment, and show readers that you must make the best of where you are instead of complaining. It seems there is a reward for living in the north: the Northern Lights (aurora borealis), a magical and natural light display readers may wish they could see (like this reviewer).
Each poem is easy to read and would be excellent read a-louds. Many of the poems are presented on a two-page spread, with the poem on one page and the opposite page is where the author has included details providing more factual information connected to the poem (in smaller print). Each poem provides insight into what it would be like to play outside in the dark, in a place where “The Sun Won’t Shine”.
Readers can only imagine (or maybe even dream) about how life would be living in this area. In some poems, exaggerated words reflect the illustration it represents, such as the poem Marilyn’s Moon Question where a child is on a tire swing, and the word “moon” stretches across the page (with multiple letters “O”). Recess in the Dark includes poems on many topics of northern life: igloos, dog teams, rabbit mittens, etc. The final poem We Have Light brings the readers full circle to the realization that the darkness will disappear and the light will shine again.
Erin Mercer’s illustrations are breathtaking, offering dark star filled backgrounds with bright colors and children who are smiling at the extravaganza before them. It is obvious these children are enjoying where they live and don’t see the dark and cold as anything but a wonderful experience of life in the north. Ms. Mercer has used various types of techniques in creating the digital paintings: pencil, pastel and oil. Dark shades of blue and purple accentuate the night sky, while Northern Lights are created with brilliant greens. The children’s clothing is an array of many bright colours of the spectrum, like a rainbow. The moon’s yellow glows brightly as if a real lamp has been turned on especially when the reader turns the pages to reveal the double page spread in the poem Marilyn’s Moon Questions. The final two pages of he book have a glorious sunrise mixture of reds, purples and blue as the children now have light as winter fades and disappears.
The author’s dedication elaborates her intent in creating this book. The dedication isn’t just for those who were in the far north with her and the children at the school where she once taught who inspired her to write the poems. On one visit, Kalli Dakos encourages the children to write their own poems based on the wonderful life they experience living in the far north. She also dedicates the book to the children who will explore the land of recess in the dark through reading the poems. Recess in the Dark is a celebration of the wonders of living in an environment where the sunshine and darkness, although complete opposites, allow the characters (and readers) the privilege of admiring an extraordinary place. This anthology of poems is a quick and fun read, and may even have some readers pausing to think about what it would be like to live in the north (and going to school in the dark too). Then with the summer eliminating darkness every day (24 hours a day), readers learn about a place many children call home. Recess in the Dark is a delightful collection of poems that deserves a place in school and public library collections.
Critic: Canadian Children's Book News
Recess in the Dark is a spirted collection of 25 poems about the Far North. Author Kalli Dakos, a former teacher in Inuvik, shares her keen observation of what school life, or more specifically playground life, is like when the sun doesn’t appear in the sky. Instead the children play their ingenious games under the stars, moonlight and the great Northern Lights. These warm-hearted poems are short, punchy and full of mischief. The poems cry out to be read aloud. Nature is also a part of this experience and the poems are full of references to the surrounding landscape and natural elements. Underneath the mirth and whimsy is a contemplative feeling and a sense of the wonderment and beauty of the North. In addition to the poems are short explanatory notes about their subjects. These notes are helpful to teachers, but not necessary for the enjoyment of the poems themselves.
Illustrator Erin Mercer cleverly overcomes the challenge of illustrating ‘the dark’ with her full-bleed illustrations that are brimming with light and colour. The children’s multicoloured snowsuits, scarves, gloves and boots stand out against the midnight blue background. The Northern Lights shimmer on the pages. Arrangement and layout of the poems add to the overall enjoyment of the book. Particularly noteworthy is how well text and illustration work for the poem “Gary’s Underwear”. The words LONG UNDERWEAR appear vertically on the double-page spread while several stretched-out legs of long underwear appear vertically on the double-page spread while several stretched-out legs of long underwear intertwine and know around themselves.
The delectable poems and energetic illustrations evoke the magic of children playing with abandon in Recess in the Dark, a book to be shared and savoured.
Critic: Children's Bookshelf
This book is truly a work of art. It features a bunch of wonderful poems about kids having recess and life in the Arctic. From making igloos to the Northern lights to sled dogs it depicts many of the unique elements that make the North so very special. Also look at these illustrations 😍 I really enjoyed this and highly recommend!
“Recess in the Dark is a fun read, it is informative, and it will have kids wondering what it would be like to go to school, and recess, completely in the dark.”
– Sue Morris, Kid Lit Reviews
“I fell in love with Recess in the Dark once I saw the illustrations. I love the dark, star-filled backgrounds and the colorful parka-wearing kids who seem to pop off the page.”
– Sue Morris, Kid Lit Reviews
“From ‘Frozen Toes’ to ‘The Call of the Wild, - Each poem has a sense of fun about it, perfect for read-aloud poem and story time at school, or just to curl up with at this time of year with a nice cup of hot chocolate and perhaps a friendly wolfcub or two enjoying each poem!”
– Phil May, Read It Daddy!
"Erin Mercer’s lively artwork, digital paintings created by using pencil, pastel and oil brush packs, adds significantly to the collection’s impact."
– Dave Jenkinson, Canadian Reviews of Material
"An intriguing title and enticing cover art will draw young readers into this amusing and informative collection of 25 poems."
- Dave Jenkinson, Canadian Reviews of Material