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To get you in the holiday spirit, here are a few reading suggestions for the young and not-so-young, and then I have a couple suggestions for great gifts.
If you grew up in Northeastern Ohio, you will probably remember many of the people and traditions mentioned in "Cleveland Christmas Memories: Looking Back at Holidays Past" by Gail Ghetia Bellamy. Bellamy reminisces about the sights and sounds of Christmas in Cleveland. Do you remember seeing Mr. Jingeling on TV's "Captain Penny"? Can you recall the theme song for the keeper of Santa's keys? (By the way, if you got one of his keys, but lost it, the book tells you how you can still get one.)
Maybe your parents drove you through GE's Nela Park to see the holiday lighting display. Maybe you shopped downtown, gazing in awe at the fantastic window displays at Halle's or Higbee's or the May Company. Or perhaps you went to one of the special Christmas productions presented by the Cleveland Orchestra, Cleveland Ballet or Cleveland Play House.
This is filled with wonderful nostalgia; they even reproduced some of the old print ads from 60 years ago and more. The color and black and white photos of toys from the 1950s and '60s, visits with Santa, and cooks making traditional holiday treats will surely get you in the mood for a merry Christmas. Oh, and you can still visit the house from the movie "A Christmas Story," with the notorious leg lamp in the window. Softcover, 120 pages, 8.5 x 10 inches, $17.95. Gray & Company, www.grayco.com, 800-915-3609.
"Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Gift of Christmas" is a special collection of uplifting holiday stories put together by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Amy Newmark.
A widow rediscovers the joy of Christmas by helping another grieving family celebrate their own holidays. A woman meets a helpful Christmas angel. Special or unusual gifts are exchanged. People explain the happiness they find in holiday ornaments, decorations, lights, treats and other family traditions. In these 468 pages are 121 stories -- most three or four pages long. Some are funny, some emotional, and most have an inspirational message. They were sent in by people around the country. You can even send in one for the next collection. For more information, visit www.chicken soup.com. Paperback, $14.95.
The How Do Dinosaurs series author Jane Yolen and illustrator Mark Teague are back with "How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas?" and "How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?"
Like the other books in the series, the colorful giant reptiles cavort mischievously as rhyming narrative describes their actions. "On Christmas Eve, does a dinosaur sleep?" or "Does he eat all the cookies left out for Saint Nick" and destroy the holiday decorations on the tree? On Chanukah nights, does he blow out the candles and steal the dreidels?
The dinosaurs are identified by species, so kids will learn as they are entertained. Both are for preschoolers. Hardcover, 40 pages each, 9.3 x 12.25 inches, $16.99.
"It's Christmas!" by the incomparable Jack Prelutsky is now out in paperback. This "I Can Read!" Level 3 book of poetry is perfect for early readers to read aloud. It will help get them excited about the holiday (as if they needed help), and the very pretty color illustrations by Marylin Hafner will keep them coming back to read the book again and again.
Here's one stanza of his poem about a tone-deaf family singing Christmas carols: "Dad sings like a buffalo/ and Mother like a moose,/ my sister sounds like breaking glass,/ my brother like a goose." See? Silly fun, and Prelutsky almost always uses a strong rhyme scheme, which I appreciate. You'll want to read along with the kids. Paperback, 48 pages, $3.99.
SDLqTIME: The 100 Most Influential People of All Time" has fascinating information on every page. Among the 100 personalities honored in the book are spiritual leaders, philosophers, explorers, inventors, political heroes and villains, artists and writers (and even The Beatles), with commentary by journalists Walter Isaacson and David Remnick, author Douglas Brinkley, activist Gloria Steinem, art critic Robert Hughes, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and others.
From Jesus to Joan of Arc, Mother Teresa to Adolf Hitler, Aristotle to Marie Curie, Cleopatra to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Johann Gutenberg to Louis Armstrong, Marco Polo to Steve Jobs, every entry is a potential conversation-starter. Pictures in gorgeous color as well as black and white. Hardcover, 124 pages, 8.5 x 11.2 inches, $29.95.
Is there a sports fan on your gift list? Here ya go: "The Pro Football Hall of Fame 50th Anniversary Book: Where Greatness Lives" edited by Joe Horrigan and John Thorn (foreword by Howie Long) is really impressive. The book is beautifully put together, with photos on almost every page.
The Hall of Fame in Canton will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2013, and this illustrated compendium contains a decade-by-decade history of the National Football League by the game's top writers, with hundreds of artifacts and archival photos and a selection of the game's 11 greatest moments.
Every living Hall of Famer contributed a commentary on some aspect of the game and its history, and each deceased member is represented in a sidebar or quotation.
It's a stunner you'll be proud to give as a gift or keep on your coffee table. Color and black and white photos, hardcover, 298 pages, 9.25 x 11.25 inches, $34.99.
Copyright 2012 by Mary Louise Ruehr.