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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Once Upon a Northern Night, written by Jean E. Pendziwol and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. A Groundwood Book, 2013. $17.95 ages 5 and up

the night sky filled with
sparkling specks of white,
and floating,
tumbling down to the welcoming
until the earth was
wrapped in a downy blanket,
just like you."

Anyone who knows the allure of a winter's night will surely find peace and delight in this lovely poetic tribute. It is evident on every page how much the author loves those northern nights in Ontario where she lives. Her lyrical words fondly describe what happens while the young boy is snuggled down to sleep in the warmth and comfort of his own bed on a cold winter night.

She says that she painted him a picture; and indeed, she does just that. It is a picture created in carefully chosen words that reflect the dark northern skies, the snow-laden trees, and the animals whose lives are spent with its bounty:

"When you walk beneath the trees
the wind will tickle them
until they drop their snowy treasures, 
dusting your hair and
sprinkling your nose."

She describes deer, an owl, rabbits, a fox and a mouse as they find food, protection, fun, and fear while the snow falls and covers their surroundings. The voice is as soft and gentle as the new-fallen snow, conjuring pictures that Isabelle Arsenault ably depicts for those who will share it.

Ms. Arsenault uses a subdued palette of black, white, sand and blue in gouache, ink, pencil and watercolor to bring those words so softly to life. There are bits of bright color added: red for the apples still left on a tree, green needles on the pine tree, the yellow eyes and chest feathers of the swooping owl, and the telltale coat of the fox as he tries to hide himself from his prey in the deep darkness. Moonlight adds a glowing warmth as the boy awakens to look out on the brilliance of the snowy night.

Peaceful and idyllic, lovely to share on a wintry night before Christmas. It's sure to become a family favorite! 

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