CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 41. . . .June 21, 2013
In soothing and lyrical prose, the writer, obviously a loving parent, captures a northern winter night in all its beauty and wonder as a young boy peacefully sleeps under a cozy blanket. Pendziwol's evocative words bring to life the scene outside as the first snow flakes fall and begin to wrap the landscape in nature's own white blanket of "snowy treasures". Soon the sky is filled with an abundance of snowflakes, falling on the pines, and animals begin to appear during the night. A deer and fawn tasting frozen apples, a great gray owl swooping in, two snowshoe hares darting about in a game of tag, then a fox and a scurrying mouse, join the story. As the clouds move away, the enchanted scene is left with the beauty of a pale shimmer of northern lights and frost etched on the boy's window.
The author, as promised in the first stanza, truly does paint a vivid picture using a variety of images, all in her desire to share this beauty with a beloved child. Delightful similes and metaphors abound after the repetitive refrain of "Once upon a northern night". These expressive word choices appeal to all the senses, including sight, smells, sounds and touch. There is a coziness, a gentle rhythm and a dream-like quality to the poetic text that mirrors the sleeping child within and the beauty of the night outside.
This rich vocabulary is reflected in the lovely illustrations, and the result is a union of text and image. The first few pages are done in various shades of charcoal, grey, and black with lots of white. This limited palette works well here, and, as readers slowly see the landscape change, touches of colours appear. First the hints of green grass slowly disappearing, the red of the apples, the orange coat of the fox, the yellow eyes of the owl, the purple of the sky, all effectively take over the landscape. Isabelle Arsenault is an award-winning illustrator whose stunning illustrations are created here in mixed media of pencil, gouache, watercolor and ink.
Once Upon a Northern Night is a lovely combination of evocatively chosen words and skilfully crafted drawings.
Reesa Cohen is a retired Instructor of Children's Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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