cover image Once Upon a Northern Night

Once Upon a Northern Night

Jean E. Pendziwol, illus. by Isabelle Arsenault. Groundwood (PGW, dist.), $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-55498-138-0

“Once upon a northern night/ while you lay sleeping,/ wrapped in a downy blanket,/ I painted you a picture,” writes Pendziwol (Marja’s Skis) at the outset of this comforting bedtime read. And paint a picture she does, taking readers through a wintry landscape as nocturnal animals explore a world covered in white. There’s an emphasis on color throughout: a “great gray owl” with “great yellow eyes” examines “the milky-white bowl of your yard,” and a fox, “in his auburn coat and long black boots,” catches two snowshoe hares frolicking in the snow. Working in mixed media, Arsenault (Virginia Wolf), however, is judicious in her use of color. Early scenes are sketched in black, gray, and white, interrupted by an occasional red apple or cluster of green pine needles. As the night wears on, she uses deeper blues and greens to visualize a frozen lake, starry sky, and the surprise of the northern lights (“Once upon a northern night/ melodies of/ green and/ pink and/ orange/ sang across the sky”). A reverent ode to the magic and wonder of an icy winter night. Ages 4–7. (Aug.)