________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 22. . . .February 12, 2016


The Twelve Days of Christmas in Canada.

Ellen Warwick. Illustrated by Kim Smith.
New York, NY: Sterling (Distributed in Canada by the Canadian Manda Group), 2015.
32 pp., hardcover, $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-4549-1431-0.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Rebecca King.

*** /4



Dear Dad,

I’m in the most eastern city in North America! This morning we caught a flight to St. John’s, Newfoundland, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. Our first stop was The Rooms, an amazing art gallery, museum, and meeting place in the middle of town. What a view from up there! Did you know that St. John’s is one of the most colourful cities in the world? They even have an area called Jellybean Row because of its brightly painted row houses. Mm mm, it made me hungry!

Next, we went to Signal Hill, where the first transatlantic radio telegraphic message was received more than 100 years ago…

On the second day of Christmas, my cousin gave to me…
2 mummers’ masks
and a loon in a maple tree.


The Twelve Days of Christmas in Canada tells the story of Juliette and Theo’s cross Canada adventures with their grandma. The story begins with a letter to Juliette from Theo, telling her to pack her woollies for her Christmas visit as they will be travelling across the whole country in just 12 days. The narrative continues through letters that Juliette writes daily to either her father or her mother and which detail her experiences along the way. Meanwhile, Juliette accumulates the requisite 12 gifts, starting with the loon in the maple tree and culminating with 12 orcas breaching. In the course of this whirlwind journey, the two cousins, lightly supervised by their grandmother, visit Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; St. John’s, Newfoundland; Halifax and Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia; Saint John, Fredericton, and Moncton, New Brunswick; Montreal, Quebec; Ottawa, Toronto and Niagara Falls, Ontario; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Calgary and Drumheller, Alberta; and Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia. Their means of transportation include planes, trains, ferries, streetcars, cars, dogsleds, and a motorcycle and sidecar. Their activities range from visiting the National Gallery and viewing The Nutcracker performed by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet to attending a hockey game, snowboarding, and "mummering" [sic]. Juliette’s last letter to her father concludes with a p.s. stating that their next family vacation should be to Canada’s northern territories -- Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. The book also includes three pages of facts about Amazing Canadians, Canadian inventions, records, landmarks, history, and nature.

     The Twelve Days of Christmas in Canada is one of a series of books from Sterling Children's Books of New York. The two titles mentioned on the dust cover are The Twelve Days of Christmas in Louisiana and The Twelve Days of Christmas in Wisconsin. The review bites for these two books on the dust cover use phrases like “fact filled compendium” and “entertaining way to learn about”, and these phrases could also be applied to this title. It is a tour de force of place and activity namedropping. The grandmother in this book must have been in training all year to stand up to the travel and activities jammed into 12 days.

     In fact, it is extremely unlikely that the trip as listed could have been completed in the time allotted. Just look at the trip to New Brunswick from Nova Scotia as an example. The earliest ferry to Saint John leaves Digby at 11 AM and would arrive in Saint John about 1:15 PM. After picking up a rental car (their previous means of transportation had been a motorcycle and sidecar), they must drive approximately 1 ½ hours to Fredericton. It must be at least 2:45 PM when they arrive. There they visit the Clock Tower and Science East, and they attend a “ceilidh”. Even if these activities take only three hours (which is unrealistic; it would more likely be five hours), it would be 5:45 PM -- and dark out -- when they begin their nearly two-hour drive to Moncton, where, at 7:45, they'd blitz through Magnetic Hill (were it not for the fact that it is closed from mid October to late May), then turn in their rental car and catch the train.

     So we have dispensed with logic and plausibility (I didn’t check plane and train schedules or check to see if an unaccompanied minor could get to Charlottetown from the U.S.). However, do they have fun? Do the author and illustrator convince me, the cranky reader, that they have fun? Yes, despite my reluctance and quibbles with timetables and whether Blockhouse Point Lighthouse, P.E.I.(which Google Maps couldn’t find for me) looks out on the Atlantic Ocean and not the Northumberland Strait, I eventually believed they were having fun. I thought that it would be interesting and exciting to take my grandson to some of these places. Not all in 12 days, and you won’t get me on a snowboard, but I might start training for hiking and mushing and mumming.

     The excitement that Warwick has been able to create through Juliette’s letters is enhanced by Smith’s illustrations. Though this digital style is not my favourite style of illustration, the illustrations are skilfully done. The style is consistent throughout. The colours are pleasant and natural. There is a light in the characters’ eyes that shows their enjoyment of all their activities. Note that the four fiddlers at the cielidh are all shown playing left-handed (which seems most unusual), yet on the final two-page illustration showing the collected gifts, they have changed to playing right-handed. Warwick and Smith were given the assignment of producing a book to fit a previously established formula. Within the descriptors of the assignment, they have been successful. Their The Twelve Days of Christmas in Canada is unlikely to become a bedtime favourite, but, as an amusing, whimsical, seasonal travel book, it is successful.


For 25 years, Rebecca King was a teacher-librarian with the Hallifax Regional School Board.

Note: I was bemused by the use of “ceilidh”, particularly as associated with Acadians. I consulted a friend, a librarian with the Halifax Public Library, who was born and raised in New Brunswick. She, too, wondered about the use of that word. She was aware that New Brunswick Acadians had wonderful kitchen parties, as did the Anglophone communities … think of Up Home Tonight or Don Messer. “Ceilidh” is Gaelic in origin and is associated with Cape Breton in Nova Scotia.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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