There were a more than a few precedents causing me some hesitation with this book. First off, I should say upfront that I am a big fan of Alison McCreesh's artwork. However, I wasn't sure we needed another parody— self-published at that— of the Twelve Days of Christmas. I had flashbacks to the poorly scanning, generally terrible A Moose in a Maple Tree from a few years back.
And while I still wish Catling wrote something wholly original, I'll concede that the two collaborators have done a wonderful job with Twelve Days of Christmas in Fort Reliance.
Fort Reliance, to my southern readers, is a Natural Historical Site at the Eastern end of Great Slave Lake. Catling and her husband live there in a cabin, 270km from the nearest road and off the grid. Catling and McCreesh use this fascinating and remote location to the book's advantage and so there's value beyond the parody as an educational resource. Wisely, they've also modeled it after the better educational picture books in which the teaching is not invasive. On the first page, for instance, we get the first verse of the song; "On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a bucketful of snow ice cream," and an inset at the bottom of the page provides a handy recipe for snow ice cream. Subsequent days bring gifts and information about snowmobiles, chickadees, racks of dry-meat and more. For the most part, the rhymes work and scan well, and I'm relieved to find a self-published book not ruined by typos. McCreesh's paper collages are absolutely beautiful and fascinating— bound to get anyone's creative juices flowing.