Play it again, Sam I passed on The Adventures of Santa Fe Sam the first time around. “No prairie dogs, please,” I told an editor after seeing the cover, with a cartoon prairie dog wearing a hat. I think prairie dogs are cute, but I’ve had enough personification of them. A few weeks later, Sandi Wright called to ask what happened to the copy of her children’s book on local history. So I took another look. Wright, a retired Santa Fe schoolteacher, and her daughter, Riyon Harding of Burlington, Vermont, wrote and illustrated the book, respectively, for children ages 5 to 9. The book is published by the Art Academy de los Niños.
Santa Fe Sam follows a prairie-dog sleuth whose encounters with other creatures — an ant, owl, jackrabbit, tortoise, and hawk — demonstrate New Mexico’s biology, geology, history, and culture. When Sam finds a potsherd, Mr. Jackrabbit explains how ancient people once “lived in houses carved into the hills like caves.” When Sam dives into a hole to escape a hawk and finds a blue-green stone, Miss Tortoise tells him about local jewelry. I was a bit puzzled about the part that concerns a lightning strike that creates a burning bush. Turns out, it’s no biblical reference, just a segue.
Santa Fe Sam can be used to teach children how to read while giving them some basic facts about the region. You can buy it for $15.95 at Collected Works Bookstore, the Museum of New Mexico gift shops, or directly from Wright at www.santafesam.com.