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Tricia Kelley curled up with her copy of “Ghosts: A Treasury of Chilling Tales Old and New,” which contains spooky holiday stories along with her story time buddies Fuzzy Wuzzy and Mr. Wiggles at Hegeler Carus Mansion. NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock
Peru children’s librarian Lynn Sheedy with her holiday pick “The Elf on the Shelf,” in Peru Public Library. NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock
How to tell a story
Storyteller Tricia Kelley offered some tips for beginners who want to read to their children or relatives at holiday gatherings. 1. “Use your voices,” Kelley said. “I don’t think every character should sound the same, because every character is different. If your character is a bear, make him loud, make him big. If it’s a mouse, make it teeny, using your voice. 2. “Interact with your audience,” she continued. “One of the worst things to see is someone just reading a story… If you’re going to tell a story that’s on paper, you have to bring people into it.” 3. You're never too old to be young,” Kelley said. If you’re worried about connecting with your audience, close your eyes and remember what it was like to be a child — pick one specific memory of one specific moment, and think about how it made you feel. “Everything shows on your face,” Kelley said.
There’s no better time to curl up with a good book than the middle of winter, on those frosty days of freezing rain and sleet. And for Christmas shoppers, local book lovers have recommendations for children of all ages. Donna Blomquist, children’s librarian in La Salle, said books make great gifts: they are entertaining and educational, can be shared, don’t need batteries or servicing, don’t shrink or fade, don’t go out of style — and they’re easy to wrap. “Books start a family tradition of wonderful stories to pass down to the next generation,” Blomquist said. Where to start? Take your pick. New Books for the Season - “The Christmas Tugboat: How the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Came to New York City,” by George Matteson, for preschool and up The book follows the real journey of the tree that adornsRockefellerCenter. -“Together at Christmas,” by Eileen Spinelli, for children in preschool through first grade “With gently rhyming text and charming illustrations, this picture book is a wonderful read aloud at Christmastime,” Blomquist said. -“How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas?” and “How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?” both by Jane Yolen, for preschool through first grade -“Just Right for Christmas” by Birdie Black, for preschool through third grade Blomquist said the book is written in a fun, rhyming rhythm, with an engaging story and illustrations. -“The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas,” by Michael Keane The book encourages tech-savvy families to visit the North American Aerospace Defense Command website to track Santa this Christmas Eve. -“Santa fromCincinnati, by Judi Barrett, for first through third gardes Blomquist describes the book as “amusing, clever and fresh.” It offers readers an insight into the famous Christmas figure, such as this tidbit: Santa’s first words as a toddler were “Ho, ho, ho.” -“The Red Sled,” by Lita Judge, a picture book for all ages “It’s beautifully illustrated, and it’s a story about a child — you can’t tell which the gender is — who has a little sled, goes to sleep at night. The sled’s outside the house and a bear starts to play on it…” Blomquist said. The action doesn’t stop there, and eventually, the child learns that the sled has quite an interesting night life. Seasonal Favorites “The common, popular stories are still those traditional stories most children love,” saidPeruchildren’s librarian Lynn Sheedy. “Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree,” by Robert E. Barry -“Christmas in the Trenches,” by John McCutcheon -“Christmas Cobwebs,” by Odds Bodkin -“Christmas Humbugs,” by Colleen Monroe This book hits a chord with families in busy holiday preparations. “Everyone’s getting cranky around Christmas, with the baking and the shopping, and the kids are still being dragged around the stores,” Blomquist said. -‘The Christmas Tree Ship,” by Carol Crane -“Christmas for a Kitten,” by Robin Pulver -“Carl’s Christmas,” by Alexandra Day Christmas books featuring animals as main characters are often a hit with a wide-ranging audience. “Kids and animals – what can you say?” Blomquist said. -“Winter’s Gift,” by Jane Donovan -“Gingerbread Pirates” by Kristin Kladstrup. “It’s absolutely a delightful story. This can be a keeper for a gift book, for sure. It’s very inventive,” Blomquist said. “They come to life on Christmas, when Santa opens the cookie jar. It’s just a fresh, kind of different story — certainly a unique tale. It’s got the magic of Christmas in it.” -“The Nutcracker,” a classic story, comes in many versions by many authors -“The Candymaker’s Gift” by David Haidel -“Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg -“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss -“Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” by Robert May Picture books -“Happy Hanukkah Curious George” -“Llama LlamaHolidayDrama” by Anne Dewdey -“FancyNancySplendiferous Christmas” by Jane O’Connor -“Merry Christmas Splat” by Rob Scotton -“A Bad Kitty Christmas” By Nick Bruel “The ‘Bad Kitty’ books are hysterical,” said Oglesby library director Megan Baznik-Wilson. “Even my fifth-grader still laughs at them, when I pull them out to read to my toddler.” The book starts with a misbehaving kitty who learns a lesson in compassion and makes a new friend. -“Bear Stays Up For Christmas” by KarmaWilson -“Fa La La,” a board book by Leslie patriceli. The book gives a child’s-eye perspective of holiday activities. Baznik-Wilson said it features “bright colors, not a lot of words — perfect for a board book.” -“Auntie Claus,” by Elsie Primavera -“Who’s that Knocking on Christmas Eve?” by Jan Brett Known for classics such as “The Mitten,” Brett’s signature illustration style fills the pages of this story book. For older children “A Season of Gifts,” a novel/ chapter book for upper elementary-age children, by Richard Peck A spooky tradition Storyteller Tricia Kelley doesn’t collect many Christmas stories, but it’s the right time of year for ghost stories, she said. Surprised? Kelley points to the traditional farming seasons of activity and rest. “In the summer, people were working on the farms,” she said. “In the winter, what else did you have to do but tell stories? “Most of the stories that were told at Christmastime were ghost stories — It’s winter; everything’s dead,” Kelley said. “it gets dark at five o’clock, you’ve got the fireplace going, you’ve got your mug of hot chocolate, and the snow outside muffles the sounds.” A favorite collection, “Ghosts: A treasury of Chilling Tales Old and New,” curated by Marvin Kaye, includes several tales set at Christmas time. For a can’t-miss classic that brings the spookiness of ghost stories in line with more common Christmas traditions, she recommends reading Charles Dickens’ original “A Christmas Carol.” To read as a family -“‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore -“A Creature Was Stirring — One Boy’s Night Before Christmas” by Carter Goodrich. -“Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect” by Richard H. Schneider -“The After Christmas Tree” by Linda Wagner Tyler “That’s just celebrating the Christmas tree — how you give it an afterlife outdoor with the animals,” Sheedy said. “It’s a nice way to end the holiday season, for families to think about, can we do this with the tree we have?” -“The Elf on the Shelf” by Carol V. Aebersold and Chanda A. Bell The book comes with an elf figurine, intended to be moved around the house as the holiday approaches. “It’s a great holiday book for starting a fun tradition in the family and adding a moment of laughter every day,” Sheedy said. Families take the elf throughout the house and hide it, then children can look and see what the elf is doing that day. Celebrating faith No matter what holiday families celebrate it is all about gathering together and celebrating family, faith and traditions,” said Lynn Sheedy,Peruchildren’s librarian. -“Who Built the Stable?” by Ashley Bryan -“Daddy Christmas and Hanukkuh Momma” by Selina Alko. -“Christmas in the Stable” (poetry) compiled by Beverly K. Duncan - "The Ch Star” by Marcus Pfister - “How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?” by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague - “How do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas?” by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague The dinosaur books present children with good and bad ways to behave during holidays, with bright, colorful illustrations indicating that dinosaurs do what is right. Gifts for teachers Some of Blomquist’s favorites: - “The Little Red Pen” by Susan Stevens Crummel and Janet Stevens - “The Eraserhead” by Kate Banks “Both titles will be warmly received and will be used over and over again, in the classroom, by the lucky teacher who gets these books,” she said. For the really big kids… Librarians at Richard A. Mautino Memorial Library inSpring Valleyoffered the following suggestions for grown-up Christmas readers: - “The Christmas Train” by David Baldacci - “A Stranger for Christmas” by Carol Lynn Pearson - “On Strike for Christmas” by Sheila Roberts - “A Christmas Wedding” by James Patterson - “Angels at the Table” by Debbie Macomber - “An Outlaw's Christmas” by Linda Lael Miller - “A Fool's Gold Christmas” by Susan Mallery - “A ChristmasGarland” by Anne Perry - For young adults: “The Selection” by Kiera Cass, combines genres familiar to readers in eighth-grade through high school. “It’s kind of ‘The Hunger Games’ meets Cinderella, in a way,” Baznik-Wilson said. “It’s science fiction, but it kind of reads like a fantasy or a romance.” The book is the first in a trilogy, and readers are hungrily awaiting the release of the second book. Non-holiday gift books Want to give a book that will be read over and over again, long after the holidays? For keeping children occupied during school breaks, Blomquist recommended the “I Spy” series of picture books that have the reader scouring pages for small pictures of items. She also suggested making holiday travel easier by listening to audio books when traveling to relatives’ homes. For older children, chapter books like the popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, now have read-alikes with series such as Big Nate. For middle school students, Blomquist recommended a new adventure series — the “Infinity Ring” — that also includes an online game component. “Easy readers that are series character-based, like Clifford the Big Red Dog, Biscuit orFranklin, make great stocking stuffers,” Blomquist added For Christmas gifts that will be read year-round, Blomquist offered the following suggestions: - Books that incorporate other technology. “Books with an audio component such as Sandra Boynton’s ‘Blue Moo’ and ‘Dog Train’ are always a hit,” she said. “A book with a visual component, ‘The Bee-Man of Orn,’ by Frank Stockton, in the version illustrated by P.J. Lynch, includes a video DVD of the artist illustrating the dragon that is featured in the book. - New easy books for beginners: the board book “Oliver,” by Judith Rossell; picture books “All by Myself” by Geraldine Collet And Coralie Saudo, and “Otto the Book Bear” by Katie Cleminson; and “The Fantastic Flying books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” by William Joyce and Joe Bluhm, which is a picture book that inspired an Oscar-winning short film. - Biographies can be inspiring for kids, too, and Blomquist recommended “The Story of Oceanographer, Sylvia Earle,” by Clair Nivola. “Beautifully illustrated, this text captures the dedication, respect and admiration that Sylvia Earle has for what she calls the ‘blue heart of the planet,’” Blomquist said. - “Jurassic Poop,” by Jacob Berkowitz, is “a fun look at paleontology and dinosaurs. “Who wouldn’t want that?” Blomquist asked. - “Mysterious Bones, The Story ofKennewickMan,” by Katherine Kirkpatrick. “This book recounts the intriguing find in 1996 of the oldest and most complete human skeletons found inAmerica,” Blomquist said. “This archaeological find sparked a 9-year controversy about whether the knowledge gained by studying such ancient remains outweighs respecting the customs of native peoples.” - “The Lego Book,” published by DK “This is going to be hugely popular with upper elementary boys, I can almost guarantee it,” Baznik-Wilson said. The hefty volume, set up like a collector’s guide, includes pictures of Lego sets and the history of Legos. - “Angry Birds Playground Animals,” published by National Geographic Kids “The angry birds are telling you about the desert, or bats,” Baznik-Wilson said. “For the grandparents, who are looking for something educational to give the grandkids, this would actually keep their attention.” - “I am Invited to a Party,” by Mo Willems — part of the Elephant and Piggy, “easy reader” series for beginners - “Splat the Cat Sings Flat,” by Christ Strathearn, and the “Splat the Cat” series, based on the creation of Rob Scotton - “Ladybug Girl” by David Soman and Jacky Davis “As soon as we put a ‘Ladybug Girl’ book on the shelf, it’s gone. I don’t think it stays a day,’” Baznik-Wilson said. - “Dinosaur vs. the Library,” by Bob Shea, and other books in the “Dinosaur vs.” series The series, for beginning readers, uses colorful pictures to connect with children in settings and conflicts they often experience, such as bedtime and potty training. - “The Duckling Gets a Cookie?” by Mo Willems, part of the “Pigeon” book series. “I have yet to meet a kid who doesn’t like the Pigeon books, when they’re read to them,” Baznik-Wilson said. - The Skippy Jon Jones series, including “Cirque de Olé,” by Judy Schachner - “Puss in Boots,” illustrated by Caldecott-winning illustrator Jerry Pinkney “They’re just gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous,” Baznik-Wilson said. - “The Third Wheel,” the latest in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series byJeff Kinney “This is going to be a hot book on Christmas lists,” Baznik-Wilson said. “Wimpy Kid books are beyond comprehension, in how popular they are.” - “Meet Caroline” and the new Caroline series of American Girl books The newly released doll and book series show a girl’s perspective of life during the War of 1812. -“Who Could That be at this Hour?” by Lemony Snickett, the first in a new series - “Doctor Proctor’s Fart Power” series including “Bubble in the Bathtub,” by Joe Nesbo Baznik-Wilson said the series is especially popular among boys in fourth- through sixth-grade. - “Ricky Ricottas Mighty Robot” by Dav Pilkey Need something more specific? Local librarians offer to help area residents with recommendations for holiday books to borrow or buy. “We can help families think about what they’re interested in reading and work with them to find the books that will help them enjoy existing traditions or to start new traditions with their children,” Sheedy said.
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