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).