________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 5. . . .October 2, 2015

 no cover image

The Twelve Days of Christmas in Newfoundland and Labrador. (A Puffin Playing by the Sea).

Gina Noordhof. Illustrated by Derek Peddle.
n.p., puffinchristmas@gmail.com, 2014.
28 pp., pbk., $16.95.
ISBN 978-0-9936498-0-7.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

**½ /4

Note: Cover image has been removed at the request of the author and illustrator.



On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me….5 car-i-bouuuuu; four calling canines; three Norse-men; two tea dolls; and a puffin playing by the sea.

Domesticated caribou (reindeer) from Europe were brought to the northern part of the island in 1907 by Sir Wilfred Grenfell (a medical missionary, visionary, and philanthropist) to provide food, milk and clothing for the people of the area. Caribou were also intended as a work animal. Some of these reindeer were used in the lumber woods of central Newfoundland as an experiment to replace horses.


A Puffin Playing by the Sea presents a highly original version of the familiar and favorite Christmas song. With the aim of showcasing some of the special features of her home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the author has chosen local animals (puffins, Newfoundland dogs, caribou, seals, whales, codfish), customs (tea dolls, mummers, fiddlers) and history (Norse-men, lighthouses) for each simple verse of the song. Included with the verses set out on double-page spreads, information about these elements and other aspects of island life add interest and educational value.

     The illustrations by Derek Peddle are a delight. Through whimsy and attention to detail, he has brought the puffin to life in the 12 guises and appropriate poses needed to fit the song. Who would expect to see a puffin howling like canines, for instance? Don’t miss the ninth verse where Puffin attempts to breach like whales….and doesn’t quite get it right. Hilarious! The illustrations are repeated on a single page at the back, along with the musical score. No biography note about the illustrator, though!

     The only disappointment with this book is the layout. After the invitation of a stunning cover showing Puffin in Christmas garb on a cheery red background, young readers in particular will expect to open the book and see more of that appealing character right away. Instead, the first page contains the details normally shown on a title page verso, or at the back of the book (which would work best in this case): dedication, photo credits, editorial list, a map. Kids (even adults) aren’t interested in that at first; they want the story to begin. And when it does, it is interrupted on every page with the encyclopedic-style information about each feature in a broad sidebar on the right side. Generally, with a mix of story and fact, this kind of detail written at an adult reading level is placed at the back for further reading by those interested. That way, the pleasurable experience of the lively and amusing story with its bright, animated illustrations can be had without distraction. Clearly, A Puffin Playing by the Sea can be enjoyed on more than one level and reread for its separate purposes, something a different layout would facilitate and enhance.

     The author plans to extend this concept with books on each province. It would make a fun collection to highlight our Canadian heritage.


Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in BC.

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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