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Children's Fiction Bedtime & Dreams

Once Upon a Northern Night

by (author) Jean E. Pendziwol

illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Groundwood Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Aug 2013
Bedtime & Dreams, General, Seasons
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2013
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jul 2013
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 4 to 7
  • Grade: k to 2
  • Reading age: 4 to 7


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.

About the authors

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.

Jean E. Pendziwol's profile page

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.

Isabelle Arsenault's profile page


  • Runner-up, Prix des Mini-Zinzins Cycle 3
  • Short-listed, Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Picture Book Award
  • Commended, Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year
  • Short-listed, TD Canadian Children's Literature Award
  • Short-listed, Amelia Frances Howard‐Gibbon Award
  • Commended, A Quill & Quire Book of the Year
  • Short-listed, The Governor General's Literary Awards-Children's Literature- Text
  • Commended, Toronto Public Library's First and Best

Editorial Reviews

[A] mixture of magic, wildlife and deep comfort.

New York Times

This is a lovely wintry bedtime story, best for sharing one-on-one.

School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

A beautiful, lyrical celebration of northern light and night.


A reverent ode to the magic and wonder of an icy winter night.

Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“A sweet and lovely tale of the magic of waking up to a world transformed by winter.”


User Reviews

A gentle bedtime story

Winter narrates a loving lullaby while snow and frost transform the outdoor scene as a child sleeps. Arsenault's whimsical art is understated in charcoal tones with lots of white. Each double page spread features one colour; a bit of green or red or blue. The animals are lively, full of activity. The hares have rosy-cheeks like the sleeping child. Magical.

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