Ornate illustrations in a lush, romantic style follow the traditional wording of the old song, with all the accumulating gifts hidden within each succeeding illustration.
This version has a dreamy, fairy-tale sensibility, though Long does not provide a clear visual narrative to accompany all the verses of the song. There is a mysterious woman in red in the background of several illustrations, angels serving as pipers and nine ladies dancing who look like they stepped out of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” The 10 lords a-leaping are knights in armor riding off to battle, with the lady in red again hurrying away in the distance. All the gifts (in the correct numbers) are hidden in each following illustration, tucked into borders, shadows, flowers and costumes, often in tiny or faint formats that are difficult even for an adult to locate. The solution key to the hidden gifts is printed in thumbnail sketches on the back of the book’s paper cover, which limits this volume’s usefulness in library settings. The final two-page spread shows all the gifts integrated into a complex outdoor scene.The intricate illustrations demonstrate the artist’s considerable skills, but the total effort is a fragmented conglomeration that fails to create a story for the song. To see what really can be done with the song, read Jane Ray's exquisite version (2011). (artist’s note, musical notation) (Picture book. 5-7)