A local author is up for one of Canada’s largest literary prizes.
Thunder Bay’s Jean E. Pendziwol is nominated for a Governor General Literary Award in the English children’s text category for her book, Once Upon a Northern Night.
This is the first time Pendziwol has seen one of her works receive a nomination in the text category, and she said the reaction the book has received has been incredible.
“This has been exciting, with the whole process and the reception that the book has received and the acknowledgement of the text,” she said.
Pendziwol’s first children’s book was published 15 years ago as a result of her daughter, Erin, being afraid of fire and not finding any books on the market that satisfied her desire for education as well as reassurance.
That spawned her dragon series, a collection of informative and educational stories designed to share lessons ranging from fire safety to bullying.
The author did not have to travel far to find her muse for Once Upon a Northern Night.
Pendziwol only had to look out her window to get the ball rolling for the book.
“I was inspired to write this one morning when I got up and looked in the backyard,” Pendziwol explained.
“I could see the deer had walked through the yard, and the rabbits had been hopping under the trees and it just made me realize there is so much that goes on through the night when we’re sleeping and I took some comfort in that and wanted to find a way to capture to it.”
She described the book has having a lyrical poetic tone, and that she sought out to explore language and the effects of atmosphere.
Praise for the book has extended beyond Canada and into the United States. The title was reviewed by the New York Times, where it was lauded for its ‘mixture of magic, wildlife, and deep comfort.’
When asked for her interpretation of the message the book conveys to young readers, Pendziwol explained she believes it gives children a big-picture outlook.
“I think the realization that there is a beyond a here and now and what’s in front of you,” she said. “There’s this greater sense that life goes on, that there’s comfort and love even when you don’t see it.”
The challenge when it comes to writing children’s books is the need to attract directly to two different demographics.
A successful children’s book must appeal to the parent, while at the same time entertaining the child.
In addition to her daughter, Pendziwol also has two sons, Colin and Ryan. She frequently draws from her experience reading to them and sharing
“I think that’s where I tap into my motherhood, and the years I’ve spent reading books into my own kids,” Pendziwol explained. “I knew there were books I enjoyed reading again and again, and they were books that tended to be well-written and had some literary content.”
The winners of the Governor General Literary Awards will be announced in mid-November.
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