This misguided effort offers explanations of many aspects of traditional African cultures within the structure of the oft-parodied holiday classic, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
In this version, the first day of Christmas brings a stork in a baobab tree, with an accompanying paragraph of explanatory text focused on southern Africa. Subsequent days of the celebration bring thatched huts, wooden carvings and traditional drummers, dancers and storytellers. A young couple and their baby appear in several illustrations, cleverly integrating the Nativity story into the art. Each double-page spread offers a vibrant illustration of ever-growing numbers of characters, with the corresponding line of the song flowing through the illustration. A paragraph or two of text explains each new gift, often tied to the Christmas holiday celebrations (for example, the wooden carvings are Nativity sets). However, these explanatory asides imply that all Africans are Christians who celebrate Christmas, and there is a distinct implication that "traditional African culture" is the way that all Africans live today and is consistent throughout the continent. An author’s note indicates which countries correspond to each illustration, but there is no map to help put this information in perspective.
The arresting illustrations and the reworked version of the song are intriguing, but the insensitive cultural inferences and unclear or incorrect text are serious drawbacks. (Picture book. 4-7)