Pasatiempo - - In Other Words -

With vi­sions of fry bread At the last tally, there were 849 ver­sions of “’Twas the Night Be­fore Christ­mas.” Mi­ami, nu­clear en­ergy, pro­fes­sional wrestling, Star Trek, punk rock — there seems to be no theme im­mune to this Christ­mas treat­ment. Santa Fe’s Clear Light Pub­lish­ing has en­tered the fray with Na­tive Amer­i­can Night Be­fore Christ­mas. Writ­ten by Gary Robin­son (of Choctaw and Chero­kee de­scent) and il­lus­trated by Jesse T. Hum­ming­bird (a mem­ber of the Chero­kee Nation), the book nim­bly nar­rates the Christ­mas Eve tale of Old Red Shirt, a Na­tive Amer­i­can term for Santa Claus. “With a plump lit­tle driver who looked so well fed,” writes Robin­son, “I thought for a bit he was fly­ing fry bread.”

This whim­si­cal tale, in which Old Red Shirt, dressed in buck­skin and beads, cap­tains a sleigh of buf­falo led by Red Bow and Harjo, is a de­light­ful en­try in the pan­theon of multi-eth­nic Christ­mas books. Hum­ming­bird’s vi­brant il­lus­tra­tions glow on the page in hues of pur­ple, blue, and red. The artist, known for his acrylic works, brings a brightly col­ored pal­ette to bear on the flat Santa Fe Na­tive Amer­i­can style pi­o­neered in In­dian art cir­cles in the 1930s and ’40s. It’s a per­fect mix of words and im­ages.

On Fri­day, Nov. 12, Hum­ming­bird signs books from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Sil­ver Sun Gallery (656 Canyon Road, 983-8743), where an ex­hibit of his hol­i­day-themed work runs through Nov. 28. From 2 to 4 p.m. on Satur­day, Nov. 13, he signs books at The Ark book­store (133 Romero St., 988-3709).

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