cover image The Fiddler of the Northern Lights

The Fiddler of the Northern Lights

Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, Natalie Warnock. Dutton Books, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-65215-1

During the north woods winter, Henry is spellbound by his grandfather's fabulous stories-particularly by one of a fiddler whose music summons the dancing colors of the aurora borealis. Hoping to catch a glimpse of the legendary figure, Henry and Grandpa Pepin skate upriver on ice mirroring the sky. Bowman's watercolors portray the emergence of the shimmering northern lights, which turn the black river into a ""ribbon of sparkling, dancing light."" When the two return home, Henry is tired and disappointed, until a late-night knock at the door introduces a stranger toting a not-so-mysterious black case. As the fiddler plays, the northern lights begin to dance, and the awed neighbors soon follow suit. Kinsey-Warnock, previously paired with Bowman for The Canada Geese Quilt, takes her metaphors from the woods: the last strains of music are ""sad and lonesome as a wolf howl,"" and the stars hang so low that ""it seems you could hop from one to the other, like rocks in a stream."" The dialogue is contrastingly plain, and the characters almost flat: the landscape gets more elaboration than the people. But for the most part, the tale delivers the anticipated magic, and Bowman's understated, realistic watercolors transform the somber woodlands with curtains of light. Ages 5-9. (Oct.)