Sub­texts

Pasatiempo - - In Other Words - — Tom Sharpe

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.

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