Now the “Twelves Days of Christmas” has to be one of the most annoying songs ever invented (other than this version, of course). I’m sure if I did some research on its history I would come to appreciate the references and symbolism behind the words, but basically I’ve never been a fan of cumulative narratives. However, it makes an excellent canvas for illustrators and there are some really beautiful artistic versions available. I’ll limit this discussion to my top three recommendations.
First, I love all things Jane Ray. I love the details in her work, I love her illustrated borders, I love that she’s done a lot of work on fairy tales. I love that she’s quiet and kind of shy. I get quiet, too, especially when I meet people I admire, so our conversation was awkward at best, but I did have the chance to ask her to sign my copy of The Twelve Dancing Princesses at a bookstore Christmas party a few years back. Her rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas (Candlewick, $16.99) is amazing, starting with the cover, which displays a tree branch decorated with ornaments representing each of the twelve nights. The details are incredible; look at each individual leaf and you’ll notice they are all different. My favorite page from the book has to be the “ten lords a-leaping”. Going for a Mary Poppins affect, nineteenth-century British businessmen are dancing on the rooftops of London. Those are some nice moves and I love the alternative interpretations she includes in this book.
Now I expected to insist that Ray’s version is the best to come out recently, but then I took a look at Loren Long’s edition (Dial, $16.99) and now I’m torn. Long’s cover is more subdued, but the illustrations inside are breathtaking. The “two turtle doves’ page is filled with the crisp blue of icy winter. You can’t look at the illustration for too long without getting chills, in both senses. Long has opted for majestic fantasy; her lords are medieval knights on a noble quest. Both illustrators are to be commended and both of their books would make lovely Christmas books (ahem!)
Finally, Jade Fang has illustrated an edition utilizing the AniMotion technology that has been popular lately (Accord Publishing, $17.99). Every page contains a screen vignette that slides back and forth to create movable images. The artistic style is aimed at a younger audience, but the illustrations are solid, if somewhat seasonally cliché. Of the three, this edition isn’t my first choice personally, but I can understand why children ages 2-5 might really enjoy it.
While traditionally the twelve days of Christmas begin on December 25 and end on January 5, starting today there are only twelve days until Christmas. I hope you all are having a lovely season and enjoying the holiday books. What are some of your favorites?