once upon a northern night

Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean E. Pendziwol, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

This glimmering book takes a lingering and loving look at a Canadian winter night.  It starts just before the snow begins to fall, one flake then more.  Then the ground is covered with a snowy blanket, a blanket just like the one you are sleeping under.  The book goes on to talk about the beauty of the winter forest, snow that will dust your head and nose as you pass under the trees.  Animals appear; the deer munch on the frozen apples, a great gray owl silently drifts by, rabbits scamper only going still when the fox walks past.  The book continues to talk about the beauty of the snow once the sky clears, the patterns of frost on window panes.  It ends with the dazzle of the snowy morning.

As a native of Wisconsin, this Canadian import speaks directly to my love of winter evenings, nights and days.  This lullaby of a book opens each poetic stanza with “Once upon a northern night…” and then leads into another beautiful wonder that is present there.  Northern readers will see their own love reflected here, others will start to understand the beauty and exquisite nature of winter.  Pendziwol plays with imagery and truly finds the wonder in each moment she captures.  It is pure beauty, glittery as snow but oh so much warmer.

Arsenault’s illustrations are done in nighttime sepia tones, the color drained away except for pops of frozen apples, owl eyes, fox orange and deep night sky blues.  The snow itself makes up much of the images, dancing in the air, covering branches, capturing footprints.  One can almost feel the coldness seep from the page.  Then there is the final page with morning arriving that is suddenly color and ends the book just perfectly with its icy shimmer.

This picture book is perfect for a bedtime story curled up near the fire or under toasty warm blankets as the snow falls.  It is a quiet and lovely book, one to treasure and share.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.