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Once Upon a Northern Night

Written by Jean E. Pendziwol

Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

  • 32 Pages
  • 9781554981380
  • 10.5" x 8.5"
  • Reading age from 4 to 7
  • JUVENILE FICTION / Bedtime & Dreams
  • JUVENILE FICTION / Nature & the Natural World (see also headings under Animals)



Publication Date August 01, 2013

Once Upon a Northern Night has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal.

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.

Short-listed for the The Governor General's Literary Awards-Children's Literature- Text 2013

Selected for the Toronto Public Library's First and Best 2013

Selected for the A Quill & Quire Book of the Year 2013

Short-listed for the Amelia Frances Howard‐Gibbon Award 2014

Short-listed for the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Picture Book Award 2014

Selected for the Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year 2014

Short-listed for the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award 2014

Runner-up for the Prix des Mini-Zinzins Cycle 3 2016


Jean E. Pendziwol

Jean E. Pendziwol has published several highly acclaimed picture books, including Once Upon a Northern Night, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award and the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. She is also the author of Marja’s Skis, illustrated by Jirina Marton, and The Red Sash and Dawn Watch, illustrated by Nicolas Debon. Jean’s debut adult novel, The Lightkeeper’s Daughters, will be published in 2017 in more than ten languages. Jean finds inspiration in the rich history, culture and geography of Northwestern Ontario where she lives in the shadow of the Nor’Wester Mountains near Lake Superior.

Isabelle Arsenault

Isabelle Arsenault is an internationally renowned children’s book illustrator whose work has won many awards. Her books include Alpha, Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, Cloth Lullaby by Amy Novesky, Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean E. Pendziwol and Migrant by Maxine Trottier.

Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault first collaborated on the graphic novel Jane, the Fox and Me, winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Children’s Illustration (French) and the Joe Shuster Awards for Best Writer and Best Artist. It was also named a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book.


Star Review

"A beautiful, lyrical celebration of northern light and night." Kirkus, STARRED REVIEW

Star Review

"A reverent ode to the magic and wonder of an icy winter night." Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Star Review

"This is a lovely wintry bedtime story, best for sharing one-on-one." School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Star Review

"“A sweet and lovely tale of the magic of waking up to a world transformed by winter.”" Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

"[A] mixture of magic, wildlife and deep comfort." New York Times