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Once Upon a Northern Night

Written by Jean E. Pendziwol

Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

  • 36 Pages
  • 9781554984022
  • Reading age from 4 to 7
  • JUVENILE FICTION / Bedtime & Dreams
  • JUVENILE FICTION / Nature & the Natural World (see also headings under Animals)



Publication Date July 29, 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


Jean E. Pendziwol
Jean E. Pendziwol is the author of Marja's Skis, which she wrote after hearing stories told by her husband's grandmother who grew up in a Finnish farming and logging community in northern Ontario, and also the author of Dawn Watch and The Red Sash, both illustrated by Nicolas Debon. Jean E. lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Isabelle Arsenault
Isabelle Arsenault is a very talented Quebec illustrator who has won an impressive number of awards and has achieved international recognition. She has illustrated Migrant by Maxine Trottier, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book and a finalist for the Governor General’s Award; Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, winner of the Governor General’s Award; Le coeur de monsieur Gauguin by Marie-Danielle Croteau, winner of the Governor General’s Award; and My Letter to the World and Other Poems by Emily Dickinson, a finalist for the Governor General’s Award. She has also illustrated Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean Pendziwol and Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt, forthcoming from Groundwood. Isabelle has won the Grand Prix for illustration (Magazines du Québec) for six years running. She lives with her family in Montreal.


Star Review

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