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May 24, 2015

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Pick of the Day: Once Upon a Northern Night

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gray-blue background with snowflakes, face in foregroundPENDZIWOL, Jean E. Once Upon a Northern Night. illus. by Isabelle Arsenault. 32p. Groundwood/House of Anansi. 2013. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-1-55498-138-0. ebook available.
PreS-Gr 1
–In a dark room, a child lies sleeping in a cozy bed, while the unnamed narrator (parent? Mother Nature?) describes the silently majestic landscape of the northern night as it unfolds beyond the child’s window. Snow covers the pine trees that “[hold] out prickly hands to catch the falling flakes,” nocturnal animals visit the backyard in search of food, frost coats the windows and the pond. Arsenault’s full-page and double-page mixed-media illustrations (pencil, gouache, watercolor and ink) have a 1940s feel, a perfect accompaniment to the soothing tone of Pendizwol’s lyrical text with its restful “Once upon a northern night” refrain. Bursts of color highlight a branch here, some red fruits there, the green of the Northern Lights, an owl’s startling yellow eyes, in an otherwise black, gray, and white palette, building to the crescendo of the last spread–the lavender and white brilliance of a snow-covered panorama with a pop of orange from a fox and some deer. This is a lovely wintry bedtime story, best for sharing one-on-one.–Yelena Alekseyeva-Popova, formerly at Chappaqua Library, NY

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