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BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS

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The wish lists are in! Santa had better start planning to include many books in his gift sack; they are definitely on children's wish lists. From letters and interviews, children shared the titles they liked - and ones that "I'd really love to have in my collection," as Adam Goodmansen, a sixth-grader at Monte Vista Elementary in Jordan District, put it. "Don't worry - I won't miss the coal that much if I get a book instead."

Amanda Caut, a fifth-grader at Bountiful Elementary, admitted she'd "really like books instead of toys."Some children assured Santa that they had been "good" or "better than last year" in hopes that books would be included in the Christmas stocking. Josh Finegan said he'd leave out cookies and milk, and many children gave a plot line as incentive but said, "You'll have to find the book and read the rest for yourself."

What was popular? Everything from "Jurassic Park" to "The Three Little Pigs," and children from all parts of the state made similar suggestions. Younger children (grades K-3) wanted picture books ("If You Give a Goose a Muffin," "Tuesday" and "Piggies"); tales ("Hansel and Gretel," "The Country Mouse and the City Mouse" and "Thumbelina") and beginning chapter books that they could read by themselves ("Amelia Bedelia" and "The Littles").

Readers in grades 3-6 wanted adventure, mystery, humor, true stories "about kids just like me," places they had never been and books . . . "to help me know more."

The range of choices was as wide as book publishing itself. One thing is sure, Utah children are eclectic readers. While they find excitement in the mysteries of R.L. Stine (the "Goosebumps" series), they also want award-winning novels by Lois Lowry, Jean Craighead George and E.B. White. They are influenced by movie versions of books but more so by recommendations from peers. Above all, they like books that have been read aloud to them by teachers and parents.

One example is Dede and Michael Vilven, whom I met at the Holladay Library. Six-year-old Dede was curled up next to her mother listening to a Dr. Seuss book while her brother was at a table nearby, with a listening ear turned to "Hop on Pop." Dede loves "all of Dr. Seuss" and could readily find his books on the shelves as well as those by Mercer Mayer. "Amazing Anthony Ant" by Lorna and Graham Philpot is a new choice with its lilting text of "the ants came marching" and lift-up tabs.

"Hershal and the Hanukkah Goblins" is one of Michael's favorites since a teacher read it three years ago in first grade. He's recently been captivated with Stephen Biesty's Cross Section books ("Stowaway!" "Castle" and "Ship") and likes hearing Shel Silverstein's "Light in the Attic" and "Where the Sidewalk Ends." Both children mentioned that they enjoy receiving the World Magazine in their home. (What a great Christmas-gift idea!)

From many interviews and hundreds of letters, I found that the readers' choices are varied and so are the responses for adding titles to their wish list. Some children liked anything by a particular artist or author, such as Emily France from South Elementary in Cedar City: "If I could have any book I wanted I would pick one that was written by Jan Brett." Her classmate Cameron Brown said, "I would like Santa to bring me any book that Roald Dahl wrote."

Shae Marsden, a sixth-grader at Bountiful Elementary School, would like to have "my own copy of books written by Cynthia Voight" such as "Homecoming," "Dicey's Song," "Solitary Blue" and "Izzy Willy-Nilly."

"I like Marguerite Henry because she loves horses as much as I do," said Tara Manteca from Indian Hills Elementary in Salt Lake City. She would like "Black Gold," "Brighty of the Grand Canyon" and "Born to Trot." Classmate Christine Hardy shared the interest in this author and added to the list "Misty of Chincoteague" and "San Domingo."

Ashley Dearden, a fourth-grader at Bountiful Elementary, would like to get "every single book by Mary Downing Hahn." Ashley and many others suggested "Deadman in Indian Creek," "Stepping on the Cracks," "Daphne's Book" and "The Spanish Kidnapping Disaster."

Books in a series were popular with children of all ages. Ronald Berg in Cedar City likes the excitement in the Ghost Writer series, especially "Steer Clear of Haunted Hill" because "I could read it 1 million times." Analise Richards from Indian Hills Elementary would like the "Little House on the Prairie" series, as would Cacia Stowell in Bountiful. The sixth-graders at Monte Vista Elementary suggested many series: Treavor Ottley likes "The Dark Is Rising" series, Christine Starr liked the books about Anastasia Krupnik, and "The Box Car Children" was Jenifer Mortensen's choice. This was also the favorite of Jill Decker in Cedar City.

Bountiful Elementary students wrote about series books, also. Kiera Bahr likes "Anne of Green Gables," Tyler Barclay asks for books by Matt Christopher, Jon Montgomery

wants to read all of the "Star Wars" series. Aimee Carr added Judy Blume's "Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing" series to her list, and Nanci Lynn Rey likes to "find out how the girls back in the 17th, 18th and early 19th century lived." The American Girl series

would help her understand that.

Books become favorites when they are shared. Nicole Winn, a second-grader at Dilworth Elementary, wants "Amelia Bedelia" because "it was fun when we read it in group." Cindy Montgomery in Bountiful likes "Afternoon of the Elves," and Laura Harris wants "The Sign of the Beaver" because their teachers read both aloud in class. At the same school, Megan Birke's friends recommended "The Man Who Was Poe," and Tara Petersen wants "Black Beauty" because her friend told her about it. Neal Haymore's brother recommended "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing." "I could relate to it because my little brother gets in my stuff, too."

Humor always makes a book a favorite. Lance Brown wants to re-read "Truman's Aunt Farm." "It's not an insect ant, it's people aunts." McCall Chamberlain likes the funny stories in "Stories Julian Tells," and Imo Ibiam thinks Dr. Seuss stories have lots of humor. Mike Fuchs enjoyed "Kid Power Strikes Back" because it made him laugh.

Movie and media tie-ins were not as popular as I predicted, but a few were listed. Megan Burt would like "Black Beauty," while Judith Corry loves the book taken from the Disney movie "Aladdin." Melanie Birkes wants "The Secret Garden" because she has the movie of the same title. Two letters from sixth-graders reflected the breadth of book-and-movie ties. Lafe Marble would like "Arachnaphobia" because he has seen the movie. Classmate Derrick Layton wrote, "I would like the book called `Santa ClausE' . . . I have looked in stores and the library for this book and can't find it. For Christmas this year would you, Santa Claus, please give me the `Santa ClausE' book, movie or the real thing."

Many students found specific elements that helped them make choices of titles. Hannah Fedor said "Afternoon of the Elves" "was pulling you in and it wouldn't let you stop reading." Rachel Callister in third grade found many things to praise in "It's Not Easy Being George." "I like the illustrator because when he draws pictures of people, he adds a lot of detail and puts blush on the faces. His name is Dick Gackenbach. And I like the writer because he adds detail to every sentence in the book." Wendi Rushforth liked "The Giver" because the writer used imagery "to make you feel like you are there."

Jennifer Gull and Kalleen McMillan also have definite choices. Jennifer wants a stocking stuffed with books, especially "Peppermints in the Parlor" because "it has action and suspense. It makes you want to hurry and get through it to see how it ends." Kalleen asks for "Indian in the Cupboard" "because I love how the book put pictures in my mind."

Crystal Martindale from Meadowbrook Elementary School in Davis District said she liked Beverly Cleary books because of the humor, and "I like her sarcastic way!"

Several students chose the "Magic Eye" books as a favorite. Jason Covey suggested that "if you get really good at looking at the pictures, you might be able to see aural colors . . . but that's only a maybe." Andrew Craig Johnson already has the first "Magic Eye" books and wants the second volume, and Danny Crawford realizes that looking at a page you may, indeed, see different pictures. Brandon listed three reasons why the "Magic Eye Poster Book" was good: "Number one, the pictures are pretty. Number two, you get cool images, and number three, you get to be popular with `Magic Eye' when you have it in school."

Some children want books because they have interests and skills that can be learned from them. Michelle Kinyon asked for "The Nutcracker" because she loves ballet, and Mitch Marsden wants "Dojo Rats" since he has an interest in karate. D.J. Koppenaal wants art books "because I like art and I want to draw hands, feet and comics." Fifth-grader Sharon Vuong wants to be a magician when she grows up and requested "More Magical Science." Matthew Wester-gard's letter to Santa listed a 1994 World Atlas. "The reason I want it is because I have never had one and I need one very bad for school, home and my family." Janathan Wilkey is interested in computers and left the choice of title to Santa. "I've become very interested in computers lately and want to know about them. I've been in the dark about them, and a beginner's book about computers would be nice."

Allison Monsen and Jackie Teerlink want "The Diary of Anne Frank" and "Zlata's Diary" because they "want to know a lot more about how other people live."

Some children listed books by authors that they had read about or had seen on television. Many children in Cedar City listed a special author they like, such as Gayla Schmutz, who is a popular parent and author from southern Utah. Troy Batenson asked for one of her books, "The Hidden Treasure," and gave a very good reason for the choice: "I find it very interesting because it teaches me about mines and never to go into a mine."

Not all children clamor for time to read, but the key may be the choice of books. For example, Brooke Philipoom said, "I don't like to read very much, but the book I am reading right now is a really good one - `Hang Tough Paul Mather' by Alfred Slote. Even though I'm not done with the book it has captured my interest."

And then there are readers like Ashley Albrand, whose favorite pastime is reading. "If I could have any book for Christmas it would be `Gone With the Wind.' I was named after that book, Ashley Tara . . . it is long enough that on a Saturday afternoon I can get completely enthralled by it and not be finished in a half hour!"

Thanks to all the children and parents who talked to me in schools and libraries. Also the following teachers and librarians sent in letters and pictures of the children's wish lists:

South Elementary, Cedar City: Jean Truman, librarian, and teachers Mrs. Shakespeare, Mrs. Ipson and Mrs. Ferguson.

Dilworth Elementary, Salt Lake District: Peggy Schanz, first- and second-grade teacher.

Indian Hills Elementary, Salt Lake District: David Keyes, librarian.

Monte Vista Elementary, Jordan District: Camille Osborn, sixth-grade teacher.

Meadowbrook Elementary, Davis District: Barbara Manfull, fourth-grade teacher.

Bountiful Elementary, Davis District: Vicki Smith, sixth-grade teacher; Cathi Allen, third-grade teacher; Lisa Rohloff, third-grade teacher; Jackie Robinson, fourth-grade teacher and Cathy Larsen, fifth-grade teacher.