I have always been fascinated by the Northern Lights. I don’t know if it’s because I grew up in the North – I used to stand outside at night wishing (or hoping) to see them. Or maybe it’s just because the Northern Lights are simply a very cool natural phenomenon!
Harriet Peck Taylor has created an extraordinary tale about the Northern Lights in Ulaq and the Northern Lights. A fantastic picture book for all ages!One evening, a very curious fox named Ulaq sees “strange blue and green ribbons of light that swirled across the darkness.” He can’t rest without knowing what they are.
Ulaq begins running across the snowy tundra, asking all of the animals he meets to explain the lights. Without hesitation, each animal gives him a new (and different) explanation for what the lights are and what they mean.
To Seal, they are a sign that there will be plenty of fish to eat over the coming year. Wolf sees the flames of the campfires of distant hunters, while Polar Bear sees a sign from unborn children. Caribou explains that the lights are swaying ghosts and that it is dangerous to be out in the open because sometimes the ghosts actually come down from the sky.
The more animals Ulaq meets, the more explanations he hears. You’ll have to read the book to see what Ulaq finally figures out about the Northern Lights!
Ms. Taylor included an Author’s Note explaining that:
People living in northern regions often created their own legends to explain the mystery of the northern lights, which scientists call the aurora borealis. Some people thought the lights were ghosts, while others believed they saw flames in them, and still others thought they saw their ancestors, or foxes, fish, or other images. This story is based in part on several of those legends.
Ms. Taylor’s illustrations in Ulaq and the Northern Lights are beautiful. The various shades of blue in the sky, the sea, and the snow are vibrant. Each of the animals are outlined in white, which creates a striking contrast with the dark blue of the sky.
I love the first paragraph of the author bio found on the back flap of the book:
Harriet Peck Taylor was surprised by the aurora borealis late one night while camping on the shores of Lake Superior. She noticed a faint glow in the sky. Slowly it became brighter and began moving like a great curtain of green and white light. As curious and awed as Ulaq the fox, she knew then that the northern lights would form the basis of one of her stories.
Ms. Taylor is an artist known for her batik paintings and is author and illustrator of seven picture books for children. Visit her website, www.harrietpecktaylor.com, to see some of the beautiful, colorful, and inspiring art that she has created. Or you can look through the hundreds of pieces of artwork she has created over the years at https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/harriet-peck-taylor.html.
Have you read any great books lately?
I’ve always wanted to see the Aurora Borealis. Ulaq and the Northern Lights seems like a beautiful book.
I hope someday to make it up to the far North (farther than where I’m from) so that I can see them!