Friday, December 25, 2020

Review - Once Upon a Northern Night

Once Upon a Northern Night

by Jean E. Pendziwol
illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Date: 2013
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

In this exquisite lullaby, the beauty and wonder of a northern winter night unfold, with images of a soft snowfall, the wild animals that appear in the garden, the twinkling stars, the gentle rhythm of the northern lights and the etchings of frost on the window pane.

As the young child sleeps, wrapped in a downy blanket, a snowflake falls, and then another and another. The poem describes the forest of snow-covered pines, where a deer and fawn nibble a frozen apple, and a great gray owl swoops down with its feathers trailing through the snow. Two snowshoe hares scamper and play under the watchful eyes of a little fox, and a tiny mouse scurries in search of a midnight feast. When the snow clouds disappear, stars light up the sky, followed by the mystical shimmering of northern lights - all framed by the frost on the window.

Jean E. Pendziwol's lyrical poem reflects a deep appreciation of the magic of a northern winter night where, even as a child slumbers, the world outside does not rest but continues its own natural rhythms.

Isabelle Arsenault's spare, beautifully rendered illustrations, with their subtle but striking use of color, make us feel that we too are experiencing the enchantment of that northern night. They simultaneously evoke winter's nighttime life and the cozy warmth and security of a beloved child's sleep.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm not usually a fan of books like this, and I'm still not sure if kids will enjoy it (or if they'll be bored). But I quite enjoyed this lyrical picture book about the snowy world at night.

The whole book is a free-verse poem, based around the idea of a parent "painting" a winter landscape for their child while they sleep. The illustrations are mostly monochromatic, with touches of colour; they bring the bare, wintry landscape to life.

While I enjoyed this, I'm not sure kids will. However, if it puts them to sleep, then it would make a great bedtime book!

Quotable moment:

Once upon a northern night
a mother deer led her fawn
around the silent birch
and traced
a wandering path
on my canvas of white.

They nuzzled the sleeping garden
with memories of summer,
then wandered off
to taste the frozen fruit
still clinging to an apple tree.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.83 out of 5

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