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"
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.
“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