Eye-catching illustrations and some unusual interpretations distinguish this picture-book version of the traditional carol.
The first several days of Christmas unfold pleasingly if unsurprisingly, Wright’s fluid, friendly lines describing one partridge, two turtledoves, and so forth. Sparing use of gold paint that harmonizes with greens, blacks, and burgundies helps make pears, feathers, and stars pop. The artist photo-collages in swatches of fabric and marbled paper, which complements the liquid watercolors and gives the pages an extra-sumptuous look. The five acrobatic frogs performing with five gold rings give readers a sense that what’s to come may not be everything they’re expecting. “On the eighth day of Christmas,” a handsome sow suckles seven pink piggies while an eighth looks fetchingly out at readers. The “nine ladies dancing” are butterflies, and the “ten lords-a leaping” are top-hatted grasshoppers. Eleven hares with enormous ears blow bugles (which are not pipes, but only a curmudgeon would turn that distinction into a quibble), and 12 green-and-purple woodpeckers cling to tree trunks, ready to drum. The square, slightly smaller-than-usual trim gives the whole thing a cozy feel but still does not crowd the final stanza when all 12 gifts stretch out in one breathless column.
Perhaps not a child’s first version of the familiar carol, but a whimsical, delightful take when more literal ones have been read and put aside, as well as a handsome gift book for adults. (Picture book. 5-adult)