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The Twelve Days of Christmas

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The astounding talent of Laurel Long brings this beloved song to life with breathtaking style. Set against a lush countryside, each day brings a new gift elegantly rendered. And like in the verses of the song, the previous gifts are repeated in every illustration, giving this striking artwork a hidden aspect, culminating in a staggering spread featuring them all. Readers will pore over every page, searching for golden rings, turtledoves, and all the rest, secretly tucked into each stunning painting.
Laurel Long's unparalleled style makes this exquisite volume a treasure that will be cherished for years to come.

32 pages, Hardcover

First published October 13, 2011

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About the author

Laurel Long

8 books27 followers
Laurel Long is an illustrator specializing in book illustration. Her picture book, “The Mightiest Heart” was awarded the Gold Medal by the Society of Illustrators. Her work has been selected for the Los Angeles 100 best books and for publication in the Communication Arts Illustration Annuals.

Long has recently completed illustrations for “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Her clients include Dial Books for Young Readers, Houghton Mifflin, Scholastic, Inc., Harper Collins, Guideposts Magazine and Holland America.

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5 stars
283 (59%)
4 stars
118 (25%)
3 stars
57 (12%)
2 stars
10 (2%)
1 star
4 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 79 reviews
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,087 reviews181 followers
November 19, 2018
The immensely talented artist Laurel Long, whose breathtakingly beautiful illustrations can be seen in such fairy-tales as The Lady and the Lion and The Magic Nesting Doll , turns her attention to the Christmas season in this latest offering, giving holiday picture-book aficionados cause to celebrate. With an incredibly rich and varied palette of colors, and an amazing array of visual details - decorative borders, floral motifs, fairy-tale landscapes - she brings the classic song to life, creating a reading experience like no other. This book left me gasping. Literally. I became so engrossed in the artwork this afternoon - poring over all the beautiful little details, and searching for all the hidden images - that I forgot to breathe!

The paintings here reward the reader for looking, and looking again. Beautifully composed, they can be appreciated from afar, in their two-page totality, but they also invite the reader to come closer, to examine the many lovely details and little mysteries that are hidden in plain sight. For this edition of The Twelve Days of Christmas is more than just a beautiful picture-book presentation of a beloved carol - it is also a visual puzzle. Each painting depicts the gift being offered in its corresponding verse - which, in an example of excellent design, is inset in the page, in a slightly "whited out" box (artwork still visible underneath) that allows the text to be easily read - but also contains all the previous gifts, cleverly hidden in the details of the artwork, which the reader must hunt down. Some of them are quite difficult to find: after an hour of poring, and consulting the key (which can be found on the reverse side of the dust-jacket), I still couldn't see the partridge in the painting for verse eight. It's simply impossible to convey the richness and beauty of this book - it has to be seen to be believed!
Profile Image for Melody Schwarting.
1,401 reviews81 followers
December 18, 2022
2022 Review
I should have waited until the actual twelve days to read this again...but I needed a beauty break from the craziness of the season, and sitting down with this book and finding all those birds was the visual therapy I needed. Truly lovely. Still can't find the partridge on the eight maids a-milking spread.

2021 Review
I have never loved "The Twelve Days of Christmas" as much as I have loved them in this book. Cast aside all expectations of cheesiness and sentimentality that you might bring into a Christmas picture book, because there is only artistry here. The Twelve Days of Christmas is a hidden picture book, in which the previous gifts are hidden on the current gifts' page. To top it off, we get a final spread after the twelfth day that shows the beloved and her true love. I love how Long interpreted the five golden rings and the pipers, though her animals are exceedingly sweet and leap right off the page as if to be petted. Highly recommended for reading during the twelve days of Christmas. Honestly, opening to just one spread per day with the growing seek-and-find list would be quite merry until Epiphany. I will be adding a copy to my library soon for future Christmastide enjoyment. (Maybe I will eventually ascertain the whereabouts of the partridge on the Eight Maids a-Milking spread.)

The song and its music are reproduced at the back of the book, along with a very helpful historical note that explains where the pesky pear tree comes from.
47 reviews3 followers
October 24, 2022

I got this book for an exorbitant price at a school book fair, but I have no regrets because it is that BEAUTIFUL!!! My little sister used to wake me up early every Saturday, drag me downstairs, and make me read this to her. We loved finding the hidden pictures together.
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,743 reviews1,212 followers
November 24, 2011
I’ve always loved this song. I like a lot of secular Christmas music, and this carol in particular is always fun. So, I had to sing vs. read this book.

This is a nearly perfect gift book! The detailed and rich artwork is absolutely gorgeous and it’s fun to look for the all 12 days worth of presents on the pages. The sheet music is included in the back, something I was hoping would be the case when I was reading/singing, and there is a fascinating author’s note at the end of the book that addresses the origin of the song.

I borrowed this book from the library, but if I had children at home or celebrated Christmas I’d definitely want to own it.
Profile Image for Cheryl .
9,035 reviews391 followers
December 15, 2016
More artistic but almost as overwhelming as Jan Brett. I love the little touches like "collie birds." But I could *not* find every previous image in each page, for example the collie birds seemed to be given short shrift after their spread. And no answer key. So, imo it fails as a puzzle book, which frustrates me enough that I can't give it a full five stars. Well, actually, even worse is that it was 100% Caucasian. Which is ridiculous, and wrong, and takes another star off.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
4,180 reviews
December 26, 2011
Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! I can only echo what others have said and say that this is an outstandingly beautiful, detailed picture book representation of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" carol. Though the pictures can be enjoyed on one level for the sheer beauty, those with careful attention can also pick out hidden pictures and some symbolism, too. Long's note at the end explains some of the possible origins of the song and also her interpretation as reflected in her illustrations. I could go on and on but, pressed for time, will simply say that it is a wonderful book and one that I am very happy to own (thanks to my wonderful husband, who got it for me for Christmas!)
Profile Image for Dianna.
1,860 reviews32 followers
January 5, 2013
I borrowed this book from the library because I love Laurel Long's work, and I was not disappointed—in fact, I was surprised! Not only are the illustrations breath-takingly beautiful (as I expected), but hidden on each page are all the gifts from the previous verses of the song—and they're tricky! This book will keep an adult or a child occupied for quite some time.
Profile Image for Heather.
862 reviews
December 27, 2018
I've been trying to remember the words to this song the past few weeks, and haven't been able to do so. I only knew a few lines from it.
I saved this to read on Christmas, because the illustrations looked really good.

I thought the song counted down, so I was surprised to find it counted up.
There’s so many I didn’t remember about the song.
I thought ‘collie birds’ was calling birds all my life. I had to look up what they were.
The golden rings you’d think would be actual rings, not golden hoops.
The ten lords a-leaping I thought would be in a dance, or leaping over something, not knights on horseback.

The illustrations were truly magical and beautiful to look at. Very detailed and fairytale-esque looking. Idk if they would totally appeal to kids, as they are very detailed and mature-looking, so I think it would appeal more to adults.
I loved the illustrations on page 2 of the turtle doves. My favorite color is blue, so the page really appealed to me. It was very wintry looking with all the blues and whites. As well as the night sky on page 5.
On page 7 of the seven swans a-swimming, the colors were very soft and romantic, full of pinks, creams, purples and blues.
I loved page 9 of the nine ladies dancing, because of all the blues on the page and just how magical everything looked. The ladies are dancing in the forest and there's twinkling lights everywhere and their dresses are sparkly.
The 11th page was pretty with the angels in the sky.
I liked the last page which showed the two loves together in a boat. I loved the colors on the page, the blue of the river and everything else mixed together. It shows everything he gave her on the page with them, which was nice.
The inside covers were pretty, blue background with a sun and then in the back a moon with stars. It was very pretty.
The tall, skinny clock tower on page 11 which was also on the back of the cover didn't really make sense.

It ends with the music sheet for the song.

As I was reading I didn’t like the jumps between seasons. One page looked like winter, then it would look like summer or fall. However, after reading the author’s note, I know she interpreted the poem to be the changing of the seasons, clocks, etc. She had a very deep and meaningful interpretation of the song, way deeper than I would ever think. It reflected in her artwork.

Artists Note:
I didn't realize the song contains hidden meanings. The days are the festive days that begin on Christmas Day, and ends on Epiphany, when the three Magi visited him, ending in the Twelfth Night feast.
It was first published as a kid's book called Mirth Without Mischief in 1780, but there are three older versions. It's thought to have originated in France as a Twelfth night memory game, where players would repeat previous verses and add one more, which I think sounds fun. If a player made an error, he or she would have to give a kiss or gift to someone else.
The line "a partridge in a pear tree" shows when it was changed from French to English. Instead of saying perdrix, the oral version was copied down incorrectly.
Some say it was a Christian song with secret references to the teachings of the faith, maybe from the 16th century religious wars in England. Some say the lords a-leaping symbolized the 10 commandments. However, the British believe the ten lords a-leaping were Moorish dancers who performed during the Christmas feast.
The questions on the history and symbolism of The Twelve Days of Christmas open it up to a variety of approaches. Laurel Long interpreted it as a visual story with as many hidden images as there are meanings. She thought of it as a story about a journey through time and place. It reminded her of the 12 months and 12 hours on a clock. The repetition of the lyrics seems related to the cycles of the seasons, the turns of the hands on a clock, the phases of the moon around the sun, and the dawn and dusk each day. This explains why she has the sun and moon on the inside covers. This version was about the order and mystery of life, about nature and all its certainties and surprises.
At the bottom were trees showing the different seasons.

I guess the downside of the story is the interpretations that were different from what I thought. I expected the golden rings to be rings for your fingers, not golden hoops.
I was disappointed in the 8 maids a milking because the maids were off in the distance, showing them walking away with their buckets. The scene highlighted the cows more!
The ten lords a-leaping I thought would be at a dance, so I didn't like that they were knights on their horses, which were the ones doing the actual leaping.
I hadn't expected the pipers to be angels. It looked more like they were using trumpets rather than pipes, so that didn't exactly fit for me.
The twelve drummers drumming were more like toy soldiers, and weren't even real people. They were figures on a wreath with their toy drums.

Each page was supposed to show the previous elements to the song, but I couldn't always find them. Some were cleverly hidden and others could have been done better.

3 stars for the illustrations
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kerstin.
363 reviews
December 15, 2018
Be still my heart! This is one of the most beautiful picture books I have ever seen. One needs no prompting to linger over these magnificent illustrations. And it is rather charming that the illustrations mirror the song, each of the previous days' gifts hidden within the page. Some of them aren't that easy to find, which adds to the charm. With each new reading one has something new to look forward to! The inside of the jacket shows where each of the gifts are hidden, but that would be...cheating :)
Profile Image for Juli Anna.
2,386 reviews
July 7, 2021
This would have been a HUGE favorite of mine as a child. I'm not a huge fan of the carol, but the encyclopedic nature of the illustrations in this would have sucked me right in.
Profile Image for Kami.
520 reviews33 followers
December 12, 2018
I've always not liked that song, but the pictures are gorgeous in this book and it kept my kids' attention, so it was good. Really, it's 5 stars on the illustrations.
Profile Image for Luisa Knight.
2,727 reviews682 followers
November 16, 2022
The images are incredibly regal! And what's more fun, each page as the previous gifts hidden within it, so be sure to look for them!

Ages: 4 - 8

Cleanliness: nothing to note.

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Profile Image for Katie Fitzgerald.
Author 3 books196 followers
October 31, 2020
This beautifully illustrated book could keep a child busy for hours, as each item named in the song appears on each page on which it is mentioned. Reading the book through just to sing the song is not nearly enough to get the full experience. This is a book that truly has to be savored to be enjoyed.
Profile Image for Amy.
1,050 reviews
January 5, 2013
Very interesting take on it. Good notes at the back on the origins of the song (not really a pear tree!) and the artist's inspiration. It would be fun for kid's that like the eye spy type activities as she puts lots of hidden things in her very detailed pictures.
Profile Image for Danette.
2,631 reviews3 followers
December 25, 2016
Do not read this book if you are short on time! The illustrations are AMAZING! We loved finding all the gifts on each page.

Read with Naomi. Calvin & Lincoln loved it too.

Profile Image for Kat.
739 reviews1 follower
December 29, 2017
All the hidden images were a little excessive but the interpretations of each gift was refreshing. The roses were stunning.
Profile Image for Andrea.
974 reviews11 followers
December 27, 2018
The illustrations are so intricate and detailed. There are so many little things to look at that it takes a long time. The inside cover is so pretty. It's blue with a white sun with wavy rays, and there are thin lines spreading out to cover the page. The back inside cover had a moon and all these starry, curving, sparkly lines. So pretty. The summary promises that all of the previous gifts from the song are hidden on the pages and I knew I was up for a challenge-and I never found all of them!

In college I took several art classes and this reminded me of them. The artwork reminded me of the Renaissance styles and it was really cool. The first page had a river going down the hills and a little boat with a couple and they were so cute. The pages are so eye-catching and your eyes just travel over all of the details. So many different color schemes and designs and themes.

Thanks to this book, I also learned that the lyric goes "4 collie birds" and not 4 calling birds as I've thought for my entire life. What a shocker!

I thought the golden rings would be rings that go on your finger, jewelry. But hte illustration showed these ornate snowflake-like circles, hanging on threads and I had no idea what they were. The page with the 8 maids milking focused more on the cows than the maids. At first I didn't even notice girls at all, because the cows were in the foreground, but then when I looked closer I saw the girls were retreating in the background, carrying pales after they had already milked the cows. They should have had more of the focus because the line is about them after all, not cows!

The 9 ladies dancing were really pretty. The border had different stages of the moon and different constellations, with these girls wearing pretty gowns with all kinds of designs and headdresses, shimmering like stars. The whole thing was done in shades of blue and it was stunning.

I don't know what I would have thought lords a-leaping looked like but it wasn't knights on horseback, all jumping one after the other over a river. I also didn't think pipers would be angels, but all 11 were women with wings and trumpets and that's not what I would have envisioned at all and didn't capture the line for me.

The page for the 12 drummers also didn't do it for me. It showed a wreath with 12 little figurines from the waist up only. Drummers should be real drummers, not fake decorations for a wreath! Come on!

It became increasingly hard to find the hidden gifts and I soon gave up trying.

The last page showed a close-up of the gifts. The couple was in the boat, the boy holding a flower up to her. The river was beautiful with the curling waves and all 12 gifts tied together. I loved that the illustrator was able to write out all 12 gifts around the border of the picture. That was really neat.

A stunning book that features a song we all know, but this would make it even funner to sing because of the beautiful artwork. There is so much to look at.

There was also a note at the end explaining everything. That was a cool touch. The 12 Days beginning is mysterious and I didn't even know it was a real thing! I just thought it was made up for a song. The 12 days was a festival that started on Christmas when Jesus was born and ended on the Epiphany, when the Magi visited Him, and there was a 12th night feast.

It's cool that there are 3 older versions than the children's book in England in 1780. It could have started in France as a memory game, where players would repeat previous verses and add one more each time. If they messed up they'd have to give a kiss or gift to someone.

Some people believe the lyrics have religion origins, like the 10 lords leaping represent the 10 Commandments. But the British believe they're Moorish dancers who performed for the Christmas feast.

The artist took the approach that the illustrations should have as many hidden elements as the song itself. She really went deep with it and I didn't expect that. She mentioned a journey through time and space, and that she thought of the 12 months and 12 hours on a clock. The lyric repetition seems to be like the seasons being repeated, the clock turning, and the moon phases around the sun, and dawn and dusk every day. This is about the "order and mystery of life, about nature with all of its certainties and surprises." That was a lot to take in and it reminded me of being in any college class where I was expected to swallow this huge, profound theme that my brain simply couldn't process, in a way I was sure no one really thought of and I didn't care to. I was like yeah, right. I personally don't see the tie and that's wayy too much for me to even want to think about. I prefer that it's just a made-up holiday song and doesn't represent quite so many other things.

I did like that the page had a sun and moon at the top corners and at the bottom showed a tree in summer, fall, winter and spring.

Definitely the most contemplation this story has probably ever received..
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Meg McGregor.
3,919 reviews80 followers
January 3, 2019
Lexi and I, are currently trying to read as many versions, of The Twelve Days of Christmas, as we can find.

This is certainly one of the most beautiful and unique versions we have read so far!

The illustrations are on par with Jan Brett; that is high praise indeed!

Lexi and I really enjoyed trying to find the hidden pictures in each painting. For example, if you looked hard you could find the five golden rings in the eighth day of Christmas!

We couldn't find all the previous days in each subsequent picture; but it was great fun trying!

We took a long time identifying all the elements of Christmas on the two page spread at the end!

She is such a talented artist! I am definitely going to look for more books by her!

Lexi enjoyed this book so much, she asked me if we could buy it!

Early Christmas gift or better yet, birthday present!

1,962 reviews22 followers
July 29, 2019
An absolutely lovely book. And this is from someone who will admit that this is not her favorite Christmas carol.

The text... it's just the song. So, you know it already. There is a nice page at the end, though, with some history and background to the song, plus some of her inspirations and details included in the illustrations.

What makes this amazing is the illustrations. They are absolutely gorgeous. And so much detail! Each spread focuses on the particular number (7 swans-a-swimming, for example) but hidden in the picture are also all the previous gifts from the true love. So it's a beautiful illustration PLUS a find-and-seek book as well. Fun fun.
Profile Image for Esther.
86 reviews8 followers
January 6, 2023
We come back to this gorgeous book every Christmas, but this year we decided to really savor it: On each day of Christmas, we listened to a recording of the song and followed along in the book, pointing at the images of each gift in the picture. After we get through whatever day of Christmas we’re on, we stop the recording and then proceed to look for the hidden images of today’s gift in the remaining pages. And we’ve discovered so much more by doing this! For example, we never realized that the very last spread after the 12th day is a zoomed-in picture of the 11th day, which is a zoomed-in picture of the 10th day!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sasha.
933 reviews7 followers
December 24, 2022
I picked this up for the exquisite artwork I've come to love by Laurel Long. I was not disappointed. It helps that the sheet music is included at the end. Each spread looks like an oversized Barnes and Noble calendar. So so fantasty-laden and pleasing! My only issue is that the lyrics (giving someone people like maids, lords, and ladies as a gift) are problematic, but that isn't the fault of the illustrator.
Profile Image for Brett.
1,759 reviews11 followers
December 31, 2017
Printing this song as a picture book is pure evil in my book as an aunt/caregiver - kids always love it & want to have it sung to them, often repeatedly. If you're not much of a singer, & easily tire of this particular Christmas carol (like me), it's sheer torture. Buuuut. They love it so much! And I really love the sumptuous illustrations, so at least that makes it slightly less painful.
192 reviews
December 17, 2022
The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous in this book! My 11 y.o. son loved looking at the pages and the hidden elements detailed in each illustration. We "sang read" the story as it was meant to be, and enjoyed the backstory of where the song possibly originates from.
Profile Image for P.S. Winn.
Author 74 books343 followers
December 21, 2017
Beautiful illustrations bring the classic song to life in a well put together book, great for the holidays.
Profile Image for Marianne.
211 reviews9 followers
June 21, 2018
Beautiful artwork and hidden pictures in each. What's not to love? A nice Christmas holiday diversion for families.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 79 reviews

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