Book Reviews

Review: Once Upon A Northern Night by Jean E. Pendziwol & Isabelle Arsenault


I was kindly sent a free copy of this book by the publisher Walker Books for a review.  It’s a lovely children’s book to read on a winter’s night, here is my review.

Once upon a northern night while you lay sleeping, wrapped in a downy blanket, I painted you a picture.

This is a lovely picture book with a poetic and magical feel to it. The words above come from the first page of the book. As a child is seen sleeping a poem is slowly read to him and we go on a journey as a magical snowy winter unfolds. Every page of the book features a poem like the first one, always beginning with the words ‘Once upon a northern night’. The poem then goes on to describe, poetically, another aspect of the magical winter scene that is happening outside. The book talks about the snow, an owl flying in the snowy night, foxes, hares, etc.

once1 once2

Each page of poetry is accompanied with some lovely and quite simple images. The pictures look sweet but are also quite plain especially in their colour, mimicking the dark night and the bright white of the snow. The book is slightly shorter than A4 and a touch wider with thick pages but they are matt rather than glossy giving the snow scenes a lovely calm feel. Unfortunately one of the images of an owl (pictured below) doesn’t look as grand as it could because of the fold of the book.


Although this is a lovely book and I can see parents and family reading this aloud to children, I think the poetry may be lost on younger children. It may be a lovely poem to read them and lovely pictures to show to them and talk to them about, but I doubt the words would make much sense to younger children so I’m not sure who this book should be targeted at.

Overall it’s a lovely book and I personally like the poem but I’m not sure it’s a book that would have awed me as a child.

Rating: 4/5

Review published on Goodreads, click here

Book Description:

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


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