cover image Twelve Days of Christmas

Twelve Days of Christmas

Jan Brett, Mark Twain. Putnam Publishing Group, $13.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-396-08821-9

""On the first day of Christmas,/ My true love gave to me/ A partridge in a pear tree.'' A straightforward beginning to a carol that grows increasingly complicated as both the list of presents and the numbers involved accumulate. Brett's lavish treatment of the song portrays various levels of meaning; she has illustrated the fantastic gifts in outrageous splendor (seven swans swim in folkloric Russian headdresses), turned them into a border of tree decorations, included a menagerie of animals carrying banners with ``Merry Christmas'' in different languages, and set into the outer edges of each page an ongoing story about a family's preparations for the big day itself. In the final frame, the decorated tree serves as the centerpiece for their own caroling. The artist demonstrates, once again, that she will not relinquish a project before every last glorious detail is in place; the clarity of her vision is stunning. (All age)