Twelve Lizards Leaping: A New Twelve Days of Christmas, by Jan Romero Stevens, illustrated by Christine Mau (1999)
BoyChild is getting hard to please this week, but he likes lizards and other creepy critters, so this was a winner!
This book is a Southwestern U.S. version of the traditional English carol. From a quail in a paloverde tree to steaming tamales and the twelve leaping lizards, each day’s gift is something found in that part of the world, and the few people depicted are as diverse as that region actually is as well. The artist has included at least one lizard in each image, interacting with the gift of the day somehow and drawing the art out of the heavily bordered area where the main image is found and across the full page spread to where the text is located. The colors are deep and rich, typical of Southwestern folk art, and the technique the illustrator uses makes these acrylic paintings almost look like murals on a concrete wall. The text mostly fits the rhythm of the song well, with one syllable-heavy exception (luminarias has too many!), and was easy to sing to the tune as I read the book aloud. A little knowledge of Spanish pronunciation might help, but the few Spanish-influenced words (paloverde, pinatas, tamales, and luminarias) are likely simple enough or in common enough use not to be too difficult to say for most.
The desert animals, cowboy themes, and bright colors make this book a good alternative for the sometimes delicate and frilly versions (like the beautiful Twelve Days of Christmas by Jan Brett!) often found to illustrate the traditional version.