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Holiday Books Inspired By The 12 Days of Christmas

By Edited Aug 29, 2016 0 0

Few Christmas songs have made their way into book form as often as The 12 Days of Christmas, that seemingly endless catalog of extravagant gifts that would never fit in an ordinary person's house. The unusual nature of the items is ripe with potential for illustrators, and those who want to alter the words have even more options. After all, it's pretty easy to simply substitute words, and if you've picked an interesting theme, it can make for a great book. Additionally, there's a certain sense of security to be found in counting books, making them popular choices for children throughout the year. Below are several books inspired by The 12 Days of Christmas.

The 12 Days of Christmas (Robert Sabuda) - If you're looking for a book that sticks pretty close to the script with this classic Christmas song, Sabuda's is one of two books I would most heartily recommend, depending upon the age of the recipient. Robert Sabuda is an exceptionally talented artist who specializes in pop-up books. While pop-up books are often found in with material geared toward extremely young children, Sabuda's are not among them. His creations are extraordinarily intricate and delicate, and it would be all too easy for little fingers to grasp and tear his creations.

What's more, the near lack of color in this book might bore youngsters too little to appreciate the artistry. The pop-ups are almost entirely white, aside from occasional accents, and each background only has a color or two. However, for older children, this is a book to pore over carefully. Anticipate gasps with the turning of each page; my favorites are probably the fifth day, upon which a handsome stag bears five golden rings upon his antlers, and the seventh, which incorporates a snow globe, but every page holds wonders of its own.

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Jan Brett) - Among children's book illustrators, few have managed to capture my fancy as thoroughly as Jan Brett. Her creative books are notable for their detailed borders that often tell a different story than the main illustrations and for her immersion in various cultures. In this book, she takes a trip around the world, celebrating different cultures at Christmas. Meanwhile, throughout the borders, she includes depictions of a family readying their home for Christmas.

There's a lot happening in this book, and her decision to incorporate a narrative through the pictures makes it all the more interesting. She also uses creativity in illustrating the basic items, as when she places the golden rings on the talons of five owls. Some of the main pictures evoke a particular culture, while at other times, one must rely upon the pair of animals in the bottom corners of each two-page spread, which proclaim "Merry Christmas!" in a variety of languages. This book comes in both a standard picture book size and a board book, so it can be a suitable gift for even very young children.

The 12 Dogs of Christmas - If you think that partridges, hens and geese are for the birds, you might want to try a novelty book like The 12 Dogs of Christmas. One neat thing about this book is that it was written by a girl named Emma Kragen when she was only seven years old. Of course, she had a bit of help, particularly in the artistic department, as Sharon Collins and Kelly Ann Moore provided the drawings that serve as backdrops throughout the book and Donald Fuller photographed the starring dogs. Still, reading this book could be very encouraging for a young child with an interest in writing. It might even inspire him or her to try to publish a book!

Kragen's idea is very simple, but it's executed quite well, with humor and affection. Dogs lovers stand a decent chance of finding their favorite breed depicted here. Dalmatians, Golden Retrievers, Saint Bernards, Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels are just five of the breed who come out to play in this board book designed for durability. As an added bonus, the book comes with a CD containing a sung version of the song, and those who really love the book might want to watch the movie, which is considerably more complicated, making it enjoyable for older children as well.

Elmo's 12 Days of Christmas - Another board book that simply replaces the words in the original song, this time with objects from Elmo's imagination. This furry red monster has become one of the most popular characters on Sesame Street, especially among toddlers, at whom this book is aimed. While it's not the most creative adaptation of The 12 Days of Christmas that Sesame Street has produced, it should appeal to its intended audience.

Sarah Albee provided the text, and she didn't have to do much, since in many cases, the word "monsters" simply replaces whatever the original creature was. Hence, we get "12 monsters drumming" and "11 monsters piping." Not all that creative, but the pictures by Maggie Swanson make up for it. There are plenty of monsters to be found, dressed up in fancy uniforms or just hanging around the house, as they do in the picture for "four calling monsters". Unfortunately, while we have several generic monsters, some specific favorites are omitted, including cantankerous Oscar, nervous Telly and gruff Herry. Another oddity is that two of the activities don't fit in with December at all. Nonetheless, young Elmo fans probably won't mind this, especially when the pictures are so irresistibly cute.

On the First Night of Chanukah - If you light a menorah rather than decorating a Christmas tree, this picture book by Cecily Kaiser and Brian Schatell might be a good fit for your family. Its illustrations and text are fairly simple, with cartoonish characters wearing wide grins and traditional Jewish items mentioned but not explained. This still follows the basic 12 Days of Christmas format, but it only lasts eight days.

The story is largely one of community and family togetherness. Mom, Dad and the kids set out to celebrate the holiday together, and soon more relatives and friends join in, each bringing gifts. They distribute a number of tasty treats, including seven doughnuts, five chocolate gelt and two latkes, as well as toys like four dreidels and six finger puppets, which are part of a miniature theater that the children use to retell the story of the Maccabees. While a little glossary in the back might be nice, it probably won't be necessary for Jewish children, and others who are curious about some of the objects may be inspired to read up on the subject further.

The Seven Days of Kwanzaa - The end of December is a busy time. This book pays homage to yet another holiday, Kwanzaa, which has not been an official holiday for very long. Author Melrose Cooper lists the seven days of Kwanzaa, each of which has a different name, and he explains its origins in a note in the back. Meanwhile, illustrator Jeremy Tugeau provides warm illustrations that demonstrate the way the holiday brings people together.

The names of the days are in Swahili, a fascinating language I associate with Star Trek's Uhura. Each day has corresponding gifts, as well as an explanation of what the theme of the day is. For instance, The first day is Umoja, which means unity, and accordingly, the day carries with it a promise of unity. The seventh day, Imani, means faith, and its related object is seven candles. For children who celebrate Kwanzaa, this is a nice tribute to their holiday, while those who would like to learn about it can find here a basic primer.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of holiday books inspired by The 12 Days of Christmas, but if that is a song your kids love to sing, these are some books that are likely to please them.

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