Friday, December 18, 2020

Holiday Review: Native American Night Before Christmas by Gary Robinson

 I have another holiday read for you today, and this one takes a swing in the direction of Native Americans. When I found out about this one, I had to read it because...well, how could I pass up such a wonderful twist on the very well known Christmas poem? And I wasn't disappointed. It's one I really think many of you might enjoy, too.

by Gary Robinson
Illustrated by Jesse T. Hummingbird
7th Generation, Native Voices Book
Picture Book / Holiday
39 pages
ages 4 to 8

2010 Silver Winner, Moonbeam Children's Book Award An innovative re-telling of the classic Christmas tale, this full-color picture book takes a whimsical look at what Christmas Eve might be like for an American Indian family when Old Red Shirt (the Indian Santa Claus) comes a-calling with his team of flying white buffalo to deliver fry bread, commodities and other goodies. This delightful and very amusing rewrite of the traditional "A Night Before Christmas" is sure to be a hit with Native Americans and children everywhere as well as with people of all ages interested in Native customs and art. With full-page colorful, humorous paintings by renowned Cherokee artist Jesse T. Hummingbird.


This is a well done twist on a very familiar Christmas poem and will have you snuggling up in your tipi dreams, wishing Old Red Shirt might stop by.

Simply said, I enjoyed this one. Not only is it refreshing to visit the entire poem from the view of Native Americans, but the retelling is also nicely done. The author does a great job of changing the atmosphere to slide right into the Native American view point, while still holding the fun and humor the original tale also includes. It's light hearted, educates, and is still packed with holiday joy. 

The book begins with a note, pointing toward a glossary at the end, where several unfamiliar terms are explained. This section held the same lightness as the rest of tale and really added in help when needed with a handful of terms. The author really kept the age group in mind, and I appreciate that.

The illustrations are bright, cheerful, and pack the necessary details to not only keep listeners coming back and peeking at the scenes themselves, but also sneak in information. The scenes allow the life of a Native American in a tipi to peek through, and there is something to discover on each and every page.

I found it fun to see how the author kept to the old rhyme and found myself smiling more than once as, for example, 'choke cherries danced in their heads'. While the retold poem and illustrations stick to a more historical direction, I did stumble a bit when a sudden dash of modern slipped in twice. Part of me was disappointed and wished the historical end remained constant, but another part wonders if this is more enlightening. Either way, it's a lovely book, which adds a great twist to the Christmas story end of things, and I'm sure readers will enjoy this one. 

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