The Fiddler of the Northern Lights

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Far to the north, where wolves howl at night, the old folk say that strange and wondrous things sometimes happen. The Pepin family lived in the north woods along the wild St. Maurice River, and Henry learned all of Grandpa Pepin's stories by heart. Everyong says they are just stories, until the night Grandpa and Henry go upriver in search of the fiddler and something strange and wondrous does happen. Full color.

Henry and Grandpa go in search of the fiddler whose ...

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Overview

Far to the north, where wolves howl at night, the old folk say that strange and wondrous things sometimes happen. The Pepin family lived in the north woods along the wild St. Maurice River, and Henry learned all of Grandpa Pepin's stories by heart. Everyong says they are just stories, until the night Grandpa and Henry go upriver in search of the fiddler and something strange and wondrous does happen. Full color.

Henry and Grandpa go in search of the fiddler whose music makes the Northern Lights dance.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
During the north woods winter, Henry is spellbound by his grandfather's fabulous stories-particularly by one of a fiddler whose music summons the dancing colors of the aurora borealis. Hoping to catch a glimpse of the legendary figure, Henry and Grandpa Pepin skate upriver on ice mirroring the sky. Bowman's watercolors portray the emergence of the shimmering northern lights, which turn the black river into a "ribbon of sparkling, dancing light." When the two return home, Henry is tired and disappointed, until a late-night knock at the door introduces a stranger toting a not-so-mysterious black case. As the fiddler plays, the northern lights begin to dance, and the awed neighbors soon follow suit. Kinsey-Warnock, previously paired with Bowman for The Canada Geese Quilt, takes her metaphors from the woods: the last strains of music are "sad and lonesome as a wolf howl," and the stars hang so low that "it seems you could hop from one to the other, like rocks in a stream." The dialogue is contrastingly plain, and the characters almost flat: the landscape gets more elaboration than the people. But for the most part, the tale delivers the anticipated magic, and Bowman's understated, realistic watercolors transform the somber woodlands with curtains of light. Ages 5-9. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Donna Freedman
This is a fanciful story about a grandfather's tall tale that comes true. Yet some of its details are firmly grounded in reality: the way no one listens to old men or little boys, or the way the aurora borealis can make people believe in magic. Kinsey-Warnock has a deft, understated touch with descriptions, such as the lights "spinning and twirling like dancers in their finest gowns," or the music slowing until it was "as sad and lonesome as a wolf howl." Bowman's watercolors make the backwoods setting cozy but also hearty and invigorating. Her perception of the many colors of snow, from gray to blue to purple to plain old white, is particularly fine.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-Eight-year-old Henry lives with his family on the shores of the St. Maurice River in eastern Quebec. There the wolves roam and the winter nights are icebound and filled with mystery. Henry listens avidly to his grandfather's stories and legends of the area, and the two set out on a midnight journey, skating on the frozen river. They are searching for the elusive fiddler, who Grandpa Pepin says creates the music that wakes the Northern Lights and makes them dance. Their trek ends in disappointment, but when they return to the warmth and comfort of home, a stranger with a long white beard and a fiddle under his arm arrives at the door. As a sweet, clear song pours from the instrument, the northern lights dance in the sky, and all the neighbors gather to celebrate this miracle of nature. The mixture of fantasy and reality in this story does not quite work, and could be a bit confusing for young readers. Exactly who the fiddler is remains a mystery. However, the relationship between Henry and his grandfather is strong and believable. The mood created by the poetic text and beautiful watercolor illustrations is reminiscent of Jane Yolen's Owl Moon (Philomel, 1987). Since there are few stories available about the aurora borealis, this one would make an acceptable additional purchase.-Martha Rosen, Edgewood School, Scarsdale, NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525652151
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/1996
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD550L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.54 (w) x 11.02 (h) x 0.42 (d)

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