It’s Not All Mary Poppins

12 Days of Christmas… with a porcupine

I was strolling through the Glebe, a nice little residential area here in Ottawa which surrounds a short but lively stretch of street, home to all sorts of interesting shops. Small stores. Apart from the honkin’ big Shoppers Drug Mart at the north end, and the requisite coffee shops, not one of them is a cookie-cutter store. There are some small chain stores, but many are owner-operated. They’re all interesting, they’re all fun to poke around in.

And there, in the window of Miss Tiggywinkle’s, was this book. I don’t often shop at Tiggywinkle’s. It’s lovely, but a bit pricey. Correction: I often shop at Tiggywinkle’s. I don’t often purchase there. When it comes to toys, I am the Queen of Garage sales and outlets. 🙂

But! A book! And so cute!

A Canadian 12 Days of Christmas. I bought not one, but two, copies. One for my own entertainment/amusement, and one for Rory for Christmas. Rory is very musical, and his parents will appreciate the quirky humour of the book. It’ll be a hit all round, I’m quite sure.

As it should be. This book is adorable. The text is fun and pleasingly silly. The illustrations capture the sense of fun and silliness and magnify it ten times. There is no way not to read sing this book without laughing.

I’m not going to scoop copyrighted pictures, but what I can do is send you to the illustrator’s website. Because yes! He has a blog! I love the behind-the-scenes information about how the pictures were conceived and brought to life. Fascinating.

I enjoyed the sweetly bemused porcupine. (Though, really, it looks entirely too cuddly.) I love the calling moose and the stunned beavers. But about those three beaver tails? Beaver Tails? Living in Ottawa as I do, Beaver Tails does not mean the scaly tail of a real-life beaver. It means a pastry, sold in one of these:

(A pastry which, in the interests of the svelte-ness of my butt, I do not ingest too frequently. (But, if anyone’s interested? Killaloe (pronounced Kill-a-loo) Sunrise is THE BEST. Sugar and lemon on a hot, flat, deep-fried pastry the size of your two hands put together. Nommmmmmm…))

The Mounties munching are fun — though really, those should be Tim Hortons doughnuts. This being a Canadian 12 Days and all.

Updated to add: Oh, wait! Just sang it through again, and noted that on day nine, when the sled dogs are absconding with the Mounties’ box of doughnuts, the box is emblazoned with something that looks suspiciously like the Tim Horton stripes…

My first laugh of the book was day five. You know how in the original version, “five golden rings” is the dramatic pause in the song, those notes that you spread out and wallow in? “Five gooool-dennnn rinnnnngs”, a long, slow, dramatic yodel, before picking up the pace and skipping through the next four items. As long and dramatic as you care to make it — and around here, we err on the side of ham.

Well in this one, this Canadian version, it’s Five Stanley Cups.

What else could it possibly be?

Five Stannnnn-ley Cuuuuuuuuups. Declaimed with the full fervency of a true and passionate hockey fan. But of course. (Not that I am one, mind you, but good reading demands Drama at the right moments. And I can deliver the Drama!)

Five Stannnnnn-ley Cuuuuuuuups!!!!! (Complete with outflung orchestra-conductor arm.)

My second laugh was day seven: Seven sled dogs sledding, in which the sled dogs zip by from right to left, three of them with their paws held aloft, in the stereotypical daredevil roller-coaster-rider pose. In every page thereafter, they zip from left to right, then right to left, always in process of stealing the Mounties’ doughnuts, always with their paws up. Wheeeee! Love those dogs.

My all-time favourite page? Day Ten. The Leafs a-leaping. For you non-Canadians, The Toronto Maple Leafs is a hockey team. (My youngest, born and bred Ottawan that she is, snorted at that. “The Leafs? They’re a loser team.” Unlike our Ottawa Senators?? Um, yeah… (I think that’s an ironical-type joke, but I could be wrong.) Me, I know NOTHING about hockey. Well, as ‘nothing’ as it’s possible for a Canadian woman married to a hockey fan to know.)

So we have Stanley Cups — the ultimate hockey prize — FIVE of them. And we have TEN hockey players. And, through all the pages in which the Leafs appear, they try and try and trrrrrryyyy to get their hands on the Cup… and they can’ it.

Much like real life, where it has been (take a deep breath) FORTY-THREE YEARS since they’ve won one. 1967, our Centennial Year, was the last time the Stanley Cup ever graced the Leafs.

So it amuses me, every time I read sing this book to the tots, to see the Leafs straining to reach the prize that remains forever out of their grasp. Mwah-ha. And I simply don’t believe Mr. Zimmermann didn’t do that on purpose. Which makes me like him even more.

(Oh, and if you’re trying to sing it and having trouble fitting the lyrics to the tune? The new words fit with the old ones like this:

And a porcu pi-ine in a pine tree
And a par…. tri-idge in a pear tree)

This is a great book. Absolutely worth the fifteen or so dollars it cost me. We’ve been singing it two or three times a day for a week, and I’m nowhere near sick of it.

A very good sign!

December 16, 2010 - Posted by | books, Canada, Christmas, holidays, Ottawa | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I got this book through Scholastic’s this year and we have be singing this 12 Day of Christmas ever since. So. Much. Fun!

    Isn’t it, though? If I’d hadn’t already gotten gifts for them (and, more significantly, if I had the funds) I’d have bought it for all the tots.

    Comment by Chelsea | December 17, 2010 | Reply

  2. This sounds sooooo much fun! I like the sound of the running jokes throughout the book.

    Yes, and they’re all put in there by the illustrator. I have no idea how much plotting occurred between author and illustrator, of course, but to my mind it’s the illustrations that really make this book. The nice thing about the jokes is that while the kids will be in on some, many of them will go right over their heads and it will be the adults who are chortling. It must be a challenge to hit both audiences at the same time, but the illustrator manages it beautifully.

    Comment by Maisy | December 18, 2010 | Reply

  3. thanks for the wonderful review of the book. As the illustrator I try to add a visual subtext and seems you caught all of it which really makes me happy. I’ll be posting more about the book in the days to come. Hope your kids and those of your readers will join me for the 12 Days of Drawing on my blog. It will be for all ages.

    Happy Holidays!

    thanks again for all your insight and kind comments. Very much enjoyed reading many of your other postings on your excellent blog.

    I’m delighted you dropped by to comment, and I’ll be equally pleased to follow you through the 12 Days of Drawing! I look forward to that! Thank you, too, for the kind words about my blog.

    Comment by Werner Zimmermann | December 19, 2010 | Reply

  4. Thanks for the recommendation. We got this book for our niece for Christmas and she loved it!!

    Did you buy it because of my recommendation, or was that sheer coincidence? Glad (but not surprised!) to hear that she loved it.

    Comment by Cindy | December 29, 2010 | Reply

    • Totally your recommendation! I knew I wanted to get each niece a book, but had been (honestly) too pregnant to really do the usual research when I read your post. I was so excited — it was a great review and I didn’t have to research myself! So Thanks again!!

      Comment by Cindy | December 30, 2010 | Reply

  5. Found this at our library a few weeks ago and read it for our circle time at our parent participation-gingerbread-house-building-holiday party last week for my home daycare. We read about 100 books per month and I love to find ones that I want to pick off the shelf again and again!

    Comment by Renee | January 4, 2011 | Reply

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