Gaining Enlightenment about the Northern Night | Review of “Once Upon a Northern Night” by Jean E. Pendziwol and Isabelle Arsenault (2013) Groundwood Books

Jean E. Pendziwol will be appearing at the 2017 Toronto Word on the Street Festival

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I am always amazed by the amount of enlightenment and enjoyment a simple picture can give off to me as an adult. The book may include a small amount of pages but the details that are given into both the drawings and the words on those pages is worthy of any reader of any age. And that is certainly true of the book Once Upon a Northern Night written by Jean E. Pendziwol and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault.


There is a beauty in the way the words and the colours of the images blend together to comfortably explain the night of the northern sky. The words flow together with a careful ease, while the images seem muted with a carefully chosen highlight here and there to beautifully illustrate a point.


Once upon a northern night

a small,

small mouse

with big,

big ears

scurried along the deck,


Across the table,

mounded with snowy white

like vanilla ice cream,

he ran,

tunneling beneath the drifts

to a midnight feast of seeds

that lay scattered

beneath the bird feeder.

One has to admire the complexity of this simple book. Both Pendziwol and Arsenault have detailed work here yet the story is easy to understand and grasp. It has all the details that readers prefer to peruse at the end of a busy day, yet simple enough to engage a young mind to want to read this book (and many more like it).


Once Upon a Northern Night, written by Jean E. Pendziwol and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, is a wonderfully simple book with complex details. The story flows well through both the images and the words, giving a strong sense what a northern night is truly like. A great read for anybody of any age.


Link to House of Anansi’s website for Once Upon a Northern Night

Link to Jean E. Pendziwol’s website

Link to Isabelle Arsenault’s website




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