Friday, December 12, 2014

Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean E. Pendziwol


This is the perfect time of year for a lullaby.  And this is the perfect kind of lullaby.  Once Upon a Northern Night is written in the second person as a parent addressing a child at bedtime.  The parent describes a painting he or she has made for the child - a painting of all that takes place on a snowy night.  Snowflakes slowly begin to fall, blanketing the ground.  Pine trees catch "little puffs" of snow only to dust the child's head and nose when the wind whispers.  And several animals frolic and play.  If this is seeming too saccharine, two rabbits play tag until a fox decides he wants to play and the rabbits decide to play hide and seek instead which brings in some light humor to the proceedings.

The best thing about the painting described by the parent is that Isabelle Arsenault has illustrated everything.  The artwork is what drew me to this book.  Every page is so well composed.  The depiction of light on a snowy evening suits a lullaby and the spare use of color matches the calming, spare text.  This isn't a rollicking, laugh out loud type of picture book.  It's the picture book you read after the yawns have overtaken the giggles.  It's a send-off to sleep where everything is balanced and purposeful.  And as someone who lives in a town where a light dusting of snow leads to school closings and bare shelves at the grocery store, it's nice to see a take on a snowy night by two Canadians who are well-acquainted with how beautiful it can really be.

For more by Jean Pendziwol you can try The Red Sash or for more illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault you can read the youth graphic novel, Jane, the Fox, & Me written by Fanny Britt, both available from the Virginia Beach Public Library.


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