"It's not easy to put a new spin on a holiday classic, but it can be done - and the proof is a combination of the considerable talents and off-beat humour of Werner Zimmermann and Helaine Becker. This wacky romp through the 12 days of Christmas put a definite Canadian angle on the song and Becker and Zimmermann have crafted a gentle playful story line that allows them to bring the book to a satisfying conclusion.
The book is full of lively images - from the two caribou to the six squirrels curling to the nine Leafs-a-leaping (but never quite reaching!) the five Stanley Cups. One of the challenges for an artist in a book like this is the constant repetition of images and the need to assemble more and more characters. Once you've drawn three beaver tails, how do you create nine more versions without getting dull or static? ... Fortunately, Zimmermann is an excellent artist and - using watercolour, pencil and ink - he overcomes these challenges handily. With just a few lines, he conveys the deadpan expression and slightly bewildered manner of the porcupine as his space is invaded over and over again. Watch the play of line as the doughnut-eating, saluting Mounties look left to greet the marching band of bagpipe-playing puffins heading right. In the final pages, the massed group of poised figures visibly expresses the moment of suspense as we wait to see how the growing mayhem will be resolved.
Bravo to a talented pair for a book that is sheer fun."
- Canadian Children's Book News
"This is one classic tale that will be as highly anticipated by your brood every year as How the Grinch Stole Christmas or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer ... this timely picture book is pitch-perfect: amusing to sing along with or read out loud, hilarious to look at and an all-around good time...Want to start a Christmas tradition? Pick up a copy of this merry book, wrap it up and get it under that tree! The recipient will be singing Santa’s praises!"
- Word of Mouse Book Reviews
"A Porcupine in a Pine Tree is Helaine Becker’s clever and uniquely Canadian adaptation of that old chestnut, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” 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...
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 Becker’s 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 Zimmermann’s bold and brilliant pencil, ink and watercolour paintings, readers will enjoy many a visual joke. Those who attempt to match Becker’s 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. Zimmermann’s 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 Mounties’ 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. Highly Recommended." - CM Magazine
"A Porcupine in a Pine Tree is a rollicking ride that unashamedly plunders well-loved Canadian symbols and pastimes to rewrite the traditional Christmas tune. This book is all about fun, and it’s virtually impossible to resist singing along to “Nine loons canoeing, Eight Mounties munching,” and so on.
Becker employs jaunty, alliterative prose throughout. Caribou, beavers, and sled dogs are all here, as well as the lone porcupine. All that’s missing is the maple leaf, unless you count the “ten [Toronto Maple] Leafs a-leaping...
A Porcupine in a Pine Tree is an unapologetic, all-Canadian Christmas offering that will make an agreeable addition to more traditional holiday fare."
"A Porcupine in a Pine Tree is a wonderful Canuck-flavored take on a Christmas classic. With entertaining tongue-in-cheek humour, and comical illustrations by Werner Zimmermann, the Canadian spirit truly comes alive.
Beginning with the porcupine, Becker works her way through the song choosing the perfect representations of our culture. The illustration featuring three beavers, two caribou, and the porcupine staring in clueless amazement at the four calling moose is priceless! Of course, no book about Canadian culture would be complete without a hockey reference, in this case in the form of five Stanley Cups and ten Leafs a-leaping for them, as well as a game of curling, this time played by squirrels! The lyrics are rounded out with loons, Mounties munching doughnuts, sled dogs, and bear cubs - all with perfect rhythm. And really, any book depicting puffins piping is a winner in my mind!
Porcupine is a wonderful new book that deserves to become an enduring Canadian Christmas classic."
Named one of the
"100 Best Canadian Books of All Time!"
by Today's Parent
Reviews for Dashing through the Snow:
"Helaine Becker and Werner Zimmermann have created another Canadiana holiday hit with the sequel to A Porcupine in a Pine Tree: A Canadian 12 Days of Christmas. This story, sung to the tune of “Jingle Bells,” is riotous fun…even for those who don’t consider themselves to be singers.
Much like the holiday season and any good celebration, the excitement and chaos build through every page turn in this picture book. Beaver and Porcupine set out on a mad Ski-Doo ride across the snow on Christmas Eve, excited about what the night promises to bring. They spot Santa with a sleigh full of gifts and are stopped in their tracks when Sasquatch reaches up and tips the presents out of the sled. Frenzied unwrapping by a menagerie of very Canadian (and recognizable) animals commences, with some switching and stealing taking place. The animals carol and play instruments until the final present is opened…something that can be shared and loved by them all.
Becker is the multiple award-winning author of over 60 books, and her clever Canadian twist on possibly the most recognizable and popular holiday carol will be a refreshing treat for young readers and their caregivers. Expect to be singing this book over and over again throughout the holiday season as Becker's rhymes are infectious and possibly addictive. Zimmerman’s delightful and detailed watercolour illustrations complement the text perfectly with their wit and energy. There is so much to see in every illustration; don’t be surprised if you spot something new each time you read/sing through the story. Keep your eyes open for a hilarious chase between Racoon and Loon, and Caribou’s attempts to find the best way to wear his gift.
Dashing Through the Snow is a wonderful follow-up to A Porcupine in a Pine Tree and would make a very welcome addition to any personal, school, or public library.
Four out of four stars! Highly Recommended. - CM Magazine
"Every year before Christmas, we choose a new Christmas story to give to our grandchildren. After the popularity of “Pop” singing “A Porcupine in a Pine Tree” too many times to count last December, we decided on Helaine Becker’s newest story, “Dashing through the Snow – A Canadian Jingle Bells”. Werner Zimmermann’s illustrations add to the delight of another story that can be read but is so much more fun sung. We have tested it on 11 grandkids ranging in age from 1 month to 13 years, and although the youngest didn’t demonstrate her enjoyment, the rest all cuddled, danced, giggled and sang along.
This year I extended the fun with ideas from This Is Literacy’s newest initiative – 2000 Words to Grow. We found our favourite animals, gave them names, guessed what gift was for each animal, researched Sasquatch, drew pictures and above all had fun together. Memories were made and grandparents were given permission to play. It really doesn’t get any better than that! - ChildReach "Dashing Through the Snow: A Canadian Jingle Bells by Helaine Becker and Werner Zimmerman, the same team that brought you A Porcupine in a Pine Tree last year, is a must have for Christmas time. Both books are hilarious, ingeniously rhymed and in true Canadian fashion!" -Kaleidoscope Kids Books
"I am sure there is a teacher, or more than one, out there who discovered this terrific new book prior to the holiday season and preparation for the annual Christmas concert. It would a great performance piece for a classroom!
It's the second book that Ms. Becker and Mr. Zimmermann have created in honor of a Canadian holiday season, using the tune and rhythms of Jingle Bells to share a very unique look at the True North and its many animals and wintry scenes.
It begins with Beaver and Porcupine setting off for a wild ride on a Ski-Doo over the northern landscape. Every animal had better get out of their way, it seems. With Sasquatch attached to their front bumper they look up to the sky and see not only the beauty of the aurora borealis, but the joy to be found in Santa's overloaded sleigh. In a quick moment, Sasquatch creates chaos that dumps many gifts from Santa's load, gift-wrapped but not tagged.
In the ensuing confusion, the animals open gifts that don't match their wishes or personalities, but it doesn't take much to make everyone happy. With melodic music and a lovely final surprise, they gather as friends to count their blessings.
Werner Zimmermann's detailed watercolors offer humor, and a good deal of energy to the celebration. It will take a number of readings to know that you have finally seen all there is to see.
I especially love the conflict that results when the loon takes a liking to raccoon's salmon; wait! it was also fun to watch caribou try to figure out just exactly what to do with the gift he opens. I guess you will need to get this book to see for yourself!
Share it with your children more than once, and you might find them repeatedly singing brand new words to an old, familiar song. You are sure to join in the fun!"
- Sal's Fiction Addiction
"The first thing my son (now 7) exclaimed when he saw the cover was "Porcupine is back!" and indeed he is. The beloved little guy from the 12 Days of Christmas is back with his friends to celebrate and sing (I mean read) a Canadian Jingle Bells. Since my son has inherited my love of singing, we dove into the book together right away and learned about all of the friends that joined Porcupine on his adventure!
My son remembered some of Porcupine's animal friends, like Beaver, Bear and Raccoon. He loved figuring out the "mixed up" presents that all of the characters had to sort out, and he surprised me by predicting Porcupine's special gift from Santa (I won't ruin the surprise).
Jingle Bells is the perfect song to base a children's story on, as it's one the first winter songs they learn and know by heart. (Ideally, get them on this before they learn "Jingle Bells, Batman smells . . ." version!)" -Momstown
"With Dashing Through the Snow: A Canadian Jingle Bells, award-winning author Helaine Becker and illustrator Werner Zimmermann add another set of catchy lyrics to our Canadian repertoire.
It’s Christmas Eve and Santa soars through the northern-lit sky. Porcupine drives a snowmobile, Beaver yells “Faster, faster!” and Sasquatch runs alongside. When Sasquatch reaches up and upsets Santa’s sleigh, gifts tumble into a messy heap. Creatures gather to celebrate, but will they know which present belongs to each of them?
Using dark blue and green watercolors, Zimmermann paints a tranquil winter night scene and then populates it with spunky creatures. Kids will love the antics of the loon, whose maple candy dish does not meet her expectations. When Raccoon discovers a fish in his gift box, the loon steals it and a chase ensues through the remaining pages. Parents and teachers will readily sing Becker’s rhymes, and the chorus – part of which ends with a resounding “eh!” – encourages full listener participation.
Fiddles, horns, earmuffs, hockey pads, and fruitcake are swapped and enjoyed. When Porcupine finally opens a gift, everyone watches to see if it is the right one. What transpires is a nod to the first book–a surprise that even unites the loon and Raccoon. Dashing Through the Snow is a playful imagining of what Canadian creatures do on Christmas Eve, and it sure looks like fun."
- National Reading Campaign
Reviews for Deck the Halls:
"Helaine Becker has created another Canadian classic from a favourite Christmas carol and, with the music appended to her story, I can already hear little ones having Christmas singing fun. The Australians have their “Six White Boomers” and now we have three of our own Canadian takes on classic carols. Of course, Werner Zimmerman’s entertaining illustrations bring life to the carol, adding detail and joie de vivre to the fresh lyrics. There is so much to discover in his illustrations that young readers will be rereading the text–more like singing it over and over again–just to pick out the Sasquatch cradling baby raccoons, or puffins with their Christmas crackers, or the hard-hatted beavers constructing the tree, or the curious otter peering at the napping polar bear. Every page is a delight and will charm small eyes who’ll want to pick out all the Christmas fun being had.
Deck the Halls: A Canadian Christmas Carol is the first new release of the season that has Christmas singing in my head and lightening my heart with joy. Thank you, Helaine Becker and Werner Zimmerman.
- Canlit for Little Canadians Blog
"Four out of four stars!!!!
Deck the Halls is the third in a series of clever and uniquely Canadian picture books based on well known songs of the season written by Helaine Becker and illustrated by Werner Zimmermann. As in their first collaboration, A Porcupine in a Pear Tree, the award winning duo's take on the original is zany and unapologetically Canadian. Once again, our favourite intrepid Porcupine is cast in a central role, around whom the frantic action, parade of characters and barely controlled chaos takes place....
The many youngsters and their elders who have been lucky enough to become familiar with the first two of Becker and Zimmermann's hilarious takes on holiday songs, the second being Dashing Through the Snow: A Canadian Jingle Bells, will be delighted with this latest contribution by the gifted author/illustrator duo. Once again Zimmermann's lively watercolours and sense of humour have combined with Becker's perky and infectious rhymes to produce a book that begs for re-visiting. There are new jokes and silly situations waiting to be discovered by keenly observant small listeners (are there any who are not?) with every reading.
In Deck the Halls, the reader is beguiled by busy beavers (what on earth are they building?), skating loons, caribou in hoodies (watch the way Zimmermann handles this), racoons chasing, huskies racing, otters carolling (a cappela, no less!), a polar bear napping, a moose choir singing and eventually the sasquatch bringing his muddling ways into this wildly diverse gathering of True North characters. Then, just when it appears that the whole cast is assembled, what should appear but a family of puffins (who appear to have been missed out in the text). No matter, they seem to be doing an important job. It looks as if they are stringing lights on a rather unusual building project. Young listeners will enjoy the "surprise" ending even if they have predicted it!
The author has added a simple notational score for the traditional Christmas carol which some will find helpful; however, since Becker's verses fit very comfortably into the tune of “Deck the Halls” and since the fa la la's are very easy to expand or contract, no reader should worry about giving Deck the Halls a musical rendition.
This latest Canadian style adaptation of traditional Christmas time songs by the remarkable team of Becker and Zimmermann is an important addition to the elementary school's library's holiday collection. Since it is sure to be a winner with the four to seven-year old bunch, it would be worthwhile for relatives and friends of said bunch to make sure Deck the Halls: A Canadian Christmas Carol makes it onto their gift list this season.
Highly Recommended. - CM Magazine "A sure bet for this holiday season!" - National Reading Campaign