CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 18. . . .January 14, 2011.
A Porcupine in a Pine Tree: A Canadian 12 Days of Christmas.
Helaine Becker. Illustrated by Werner Zimmermann.
Toronto, ON: North Winds Press/Scholastic Canada, 2010.
32 pp., hardcover, $16.99.
Kindergarten-grade 2 / Ages 5-7.
Review by Valerie Nielsen.
A Porcupine in a Pine Tree is Helaine Beckerís clever and uniquely Canadian adaptation of that old chestnut, ďThe Twelve Days of Christmas.Ē Variations of the song abound, but this version, subtitled A Canadian 12 Days of Christmas, gives readers a super-serving of Canadiana in perfect time for the holidays.
On the first day of Christmas
My true love gave to me:
A porcupine in a pine tree.
Two caribou, three beaver tails, four calling moose (!) and five Stanley Cups make up the first five gifts. Fortunately for readers of all ages, award-winning illustrator Werner Zimmermann has engaged his considerable talent and sense of humour to depict Beckerís crazy cast of characters, which includes 6 curling squirrels, 7 sledding sled dogs, 8 munching Mounties, 9 canoeing loons, 10 leaping (Toronto Maple) Leafs, 11 piping puffins and 12 dancing cubs. As the above mentioned characters in A Porcupine in a Pine Tree tumble across the pages in Zimmermannís bold and brilliant pencil, ink and watercolour paintings, readers will enjoy many a visual joke. Those who attempt to match Beckerís words to the original tune will discover that it scans very nicely and requires a minimal amount of syllabic manipulation.
Helaine Becker has written over 40 books for children and has twice won the Silver Birch Award for nonfiction. Her collaboration with artist Werner Zimmermann is a very happy one. His depiction of the little beribboned porcupine sitting atop a sparsely needled pine tree as each group of Canadian icons storms across the page is quite irresistible. Zimmermannís attention to detail, coupled with his sense of fun, produces pages of wild action wherein airborne hockey players chase floating Stanley cups while broom-carrying squirrels in tams are upset by out-of-control sled dogs who are making off with Mountiesí donuts in a canoe full of loons. Talk about controlled chaos! Happily all 78 characters end up decorating a decidedly un-sparse Christmas tree on the final page of A Porcupine in a Pine Tree.
Adults (even the non-singing sort) will enjoy sharing this picture book with small listeners. A Porcupine in a Pine Tree should be welcome as a gift for holiday time reading at home or in an elementary school library.
A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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