Sunday, 23 December 2012

Sunday December 23, 2012 The Northern Lights

While we sometimes bemoan the short days and long nights of winter within them there is a blessing.  For those of us who keep an eye to the night sky, we may be given the gift of the aurora borealis or Northern Lights.  Too see them feels utterly magical even if we know the science behind.  At your library you will find books that explain them scientifically and those that feature them in fiction.

My favourites are the fictional works on the Northern Lights.  During the holiday season it is wonderful to be able to share books together and a picture book is the ideal vehicle.  All of us can enjoy the illustrations while the storyteller shares a tale.  Here are a few of tales of the Northern Lights for sharing on a winter evening.

The Fiddler of the Northern Lights by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock is a story of wonder.  It centres around eight year old Henry who is raised on wondrous legends of the great white owl, the loup-garou (part wolf, part man), and the fiddler of the Northern Lights.  Although the rest of the family doubts Grandpa Pepin’s tale of the fiddler whose music makes the lights dance, Henry believes.  The rest is pure magic which I won’t spoil for you.

In Northern Lights:  The Soccer Trails by Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak Kataujaq loses her mother to illness.  One day when she’s feeling sad her grandmother tells her a story.  “People die...And, when they die their souls leave their bodies and go up into the heavens, and there they live.  The thousands of people who have passed before us all live up there in the sky.”  As you may have guessed those souls make up the Northern Lights.

Barbara Juster Esbensen combines both poetry and facts in her beautiful The Night Rainbow.  She starts off by sharing the purpose of her book.  It is to:  “conjure up these heart-stopping light displays” for those who have never seen them, to tell ancient legends as poetry, and to speak to those who have.  What follows are beautiful poems allowing us access to the legends associated with the Northern Lights.  The final pieces are information about the legends and notes about the auroras.  This book is a lovely balance of fact and fiction.

Under the Night Sky by Amy Lundebrek starts with what feels like an emergency but turns in to an encounter with the Northern Lights.  The children in the story think their mothers have gone crazy pulling them out of their beds, but they soon discover it’s not madness.  The splendour of the lights unites all those viewing beautifully.

Finally let’s go Beyond the Northern Lights.  Lynn Blaikie’s heroine asks the raven to carry her on his wings.  The Northern Lights are but one stop for this child as she also seeks the icy deep and the fire by which the elders sit.  The images in the book are the author’s own striking batiks.

There are, of course, many more books to share over the holiday season.   I invite you to come in and explore for yourself.  Best wishes and happy reading to all.

Ruth Hamlin-Douglas

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