Thursday, September 13, 2007

Poetry Friday: The Twelve Days of Christmas

Unfortunate update: It has come to my attention that this book contains images that are culturally insensitive and offensive to American Indians. Please check the link for more info. (10/25/07)

(I had a lot of fun doing reseach for this review--who knew some states had State Cookies?)

The Twelve Days of Christmas: a Pinata for the Pinon Tree by Philemon Sturges. Illustrated by Ashley Wolff. Little, Brown, 2007 (978-0-316-82323-4) $16.99

The author and illustrator of She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain teamed up to offer another sunny Southwestern spin on a popular song. This time the animal town of Reederville (pop. 43) is preparing for Christmas, and "mis amigos" brings such goodies as eleven mariachi, seven skinks a-sulking, two cawing crows, and a pinanta for the pinon tree. (Also known as the nut pine, this is the official tree of New Mexico.)

Two stories happen silmultaneously: a bear prepares Bozochitos (the New Mexico state cookie), while watching the townsfolk decorate a village Christmas tree; a large starred pinata goes on top. At the end of the song, as the gaily dressed townsfolk lower and strike the pinata, the bear displays a tray of finished Bozcohitos, shaped liked the elements of the story. (A recipe is also included.) Throughout, we see numerous details of New Mexico culture, both around the tree and in the bear's home: I'm guessing that a lovingly decorated altar is in honor of Sturges, who passed away in 2005. (Blogger Fuse #8 confirms this.)

The changed, still very singable lyrics make this book fun for readers who know the original song, and the wealth of detail in the illustrations has a lot to offer for teachers or librarians covering a Southwestern theme. (Especially if cookie baking is involved.) However, the animal-people illustrations may limit its appeal with older children. (3-6)

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