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December 2016 | ß CRAFTS, 7 | ß BOOK REPORT, 8 | ß WHO WROTE THAT, 11 | ß WHAT’S HAPPENING, 15

A visit with Mrs. Claus By LANCE ARMSTRONG (This article was originally written for publication in the Elk Grove Citizen as a preview to the annual Dickens Street Faire.) Mrs. Claus, a certainly very famous woman who needs no introduction, made a special in-person appearance at this year’s Dickens Street Faire, which was held Saturday, Nov. 26 in Elk Grove’s historic Old Town. But this North Pole resident is far from a newcomer to Elk Grove. Although her husband, Santa Claus, has been coming to Elk Grove for as long as children have been in the community, Mrs. Claus has made her fair share of visits to this section of the county. In more recent years, she has made annual visits to Old Town Elk Grove to enjoy time with local children and others to share in the holiday spirit. In a preview to her visit to this year’s Dickens Street Faire, Mrs. Claus took time away from her busy pre-Christmas schedule to share details about herself, her work at the North Pole and her love for Elk Grove. As a sign of the truth behind the well-known statement that “behind every good man is a good woman,” Mrs. Claus said that she is very supportive of her husband’s work.

“I am Mrs. Claus and I run the North Pole,” she said. “Santa is the brains behind the establishment, but I’m in charge of the list. I only refer to him on really bad cases. And we discuss toys and we discuss schooling for the elves. “We discuss who needs extra attention, like Suzy might not be going to bed on time at night. So, we discuss ways that she can get a little bit

further to the nice side, because kids are naughty and nice. This is a really big deal for us.” Although it is not untrue that Santa has delivered coal to some naughty children, Mrs. Claus said that those cases are extremely rare. See Mrs. Claus, page 3

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Mrs. Claus: Continued from page 2 “Very, very rarely do we ever give coal,” she said. “And that never happens more than once. Kids are good and we definitely believe in the 12th hour of redeeming themselves to get back on the good list. I mean, we will wait to the very last minute to make sure that we can get somebody on the good list.” She added that the kids in Elk Grove are “above average in goodness.” “They’re some of the kindness kids we ever met, some of the most creative kids we ever met and they’re the happiest kids we ever met,” she said. Mrs. Claus also spoke about her very active role of working with the elves in the product development department of Santa’s Workshop. “I work in product development, as far as toys and things go,” she said. “We’ve been getting education, so that we have the best technology that we can have in order to communicate with everybody around the world.”


Although Mrs. Claus admits she and Santa could lead a healthier lifestyle, she said it is important to eat healthy and work fitness into their schedule. “Like any good woman, I want to make sure that we eat healthy and we have our certain amount of fitness every day,” she said. “We have a reputation of being a little more on the chunkier side. So, we try to be fit, but we are a little bit fat. We know that. So, I do cook good meals at home. And we take our vitamins every day, we exercise every day.” Mrs. Claus said that despite his improved fitness level, Santa is unable to find his way out of a continuous problem he faces each year: getting stuck on the roof of a building in Old Elk Grove. “Just how is it that Santa consistently finds himself in this predicament each year?” Mrs Claus was asked. “Well, it’s not necessarily his fault,” she responded. “It’s still early in the season, so sometimes we bring out our rookie reindeer. And oftentimes Santa gets stuck. A kid or parent

might stop to talk to him and the reindeer get impatient and they just take off (and strand him on a roof), because they like to eat. They don’t like to wait for their food.” Mrs. Claus expressed her appreciation for the Cosumnes Services District Fire Department, which comes to the rescue of Santa every year. “Elk Grove has one of the finest fire departments in the nation,” she said. “And they are always more than wonderful coming out and helping us.” In anticipating her next visit to Elk Grove, Mrs. Claus complimented the city of Elk Grove. “Elk Grove is one of the greatest communities I think ever,” she said. “It has a strong sense of family, a strong sense of community and a strong sense of caring. That’s what keeps us coming back year after year.” Lance Armstrong is a writer for the Elk Grove Citizen and Valley Community Newspapers.

A ‘Winter Wonderland’ returns to Fairytale Town


elebrate the holiday season at Fairytale Town! Weather permitting, the annual event called Winter Wonderland will be held at Fairytale Town on Thursdays to Sundays, Dec. 8 to 11 and Dec. 15 to 18 from 1 to 7 p.m. Fairytale Town’s storybook park will be open for play, trimmed with festive holiday décor and lit up with a dazzling display of lights, starting at dusk each night, with a flurry of snow falling nightly at 7 p.m. near the Mother Goose Stage. Children can enjoy making holiday themed crafts, and be able to visit the Peppermint Forest, Gum Drop Mountain and the Candy Castle. On the weekends, even more holiday fun awaits with hands-on activities, a holiday marketplace, Victorian carolers and more. Santa will also be making a special stop at Fairytale Town and will be available for visits and photos in his workshop, located in the Children’s Theater, from 3 to 6 p.m. Photos will be available for purchase for an additional cost. Please Note: The Santa line closes at 6 p.m. promptly. Printed photos with Santa are $5.


To note: During Winter Wonderland, Fairytale Town’s operating hours are 1 to 7 p.m. Winter Wonderland Tickets: Winter Wonderland is free with paid park admission. Weekday admission is $4.75 per person. Weekend admission is $5.75 per person. Children ages 1 and under are free. For faster entry, buy general admission tickets online and bring the printed tickets when you visit. Fairytale Town members are free. Entertainment Schedule Thursday & Friday, Dec. 8 and 9: A dazzling display of holiday lights will light up the park starting at dusk A flurry of snow will fall on the Mother Goose Stage at 7 p.m. Enjoy festive decorations throughout the park, and go on a sweet adventure in the Peppermint Forest, Gum Drop Mountain and the Candy Castle! Make a holiday themed craft FRIDAY ONLY: Watch a holiday themed puppet show! Puppet Art Theater Company will present a holiday version of Jack and the Beanstalk at 6

PM in the Children’s Theater. Puppet show tickets are an additional $1 for members and $2 for nonmembers. Tickets are available 15 minutes prior to each show time at the Children’s Theater doors or at the box office. Saturday & Sunday, Dec. 10 and 11: Santa Claus will be in his workshop in the Children’s Theater and available for visits and photos from 3 – 6 p.m. (line closes at 6 p.m.) Meet two of Santa’s reindeer from 1 to 7 p.m. in Pooh Corner Enjoy holiday themed hands-on activities around town Listen to a quartet of Victorian carolers as they stroll through the park from 4 to 6:30 p.m. A dazzling display of holiday lights will light up the park starting at dusk A flurry of snow will fall on the Mother Goose Stage at 7 p.m. Vendors will be selling holiday wares and treats Enjoy festive decorations throughout the park, and

go on a sweet adventure in the Peppermint Forest, Gum Drop Mountain and the Candy Castle! Thursday and Friday, Dec. 15 and 16: A dazzling display of holiday lights will light up the park starting at dusk A flurry of snow will fall on the Mother Goose Stage at 7 p.m. Enjoy festive decorations throughout the park, and go on a sweet adventure in the Peppermint Forest, Gum Drop Mountain and the Candy Castle! Make a holiday themed craft FRIDAY ONLY: Watch a holiday themed puppet show! Puppet Art Theater Company will present a holiday version of Jack and the Beanstalk at 6 p.m. in the Children’s Theater. Puppet show tickets are an additional $1 for members and $2 for nonmembers. Tickets are available 15 minutes prior to each show time at the Children’s Theater doors or at the box office.

Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 17 and 18: Santa Claus will be in his workshop in the Children’s Theater and available for visits and photos from 3 – 6 p.m. (line closes at 6 p.m.) Enjoy holiday themed handson activities around town Listen to a quartet of Victorian carolers as they stroll through the park from 4 to 6:30 p.m. A dazzling display of holiday lights will light up the park starting at dusk A flurry of snow will fall on the Mother Goose Stage at 7 p.m. Vendors will be selling holiday wares and treats Enjoy festive decorations throughout the park, and go on a sweet adventure in the Peppermint Forest, Gum Drop Mountain and the Candy Castle *Entertainment Schedule is subject to change Fairytale Town is located at 3901 Land Park Drive, Sacramento. For more information, call the main office at 808-7462, the 24-hour line at 808-5233, or email


‘Tis the season: 50-foot tree will be lit up in Carmichael Park File photos by Monica Stark


he Carmichael Recreation and Park District kicks off the holiday season with their annual tree lighting event at Carmichael Park on Thursday, Dec. 1 from 5 to 8 p.m. Each year, a Coastal Redwood located within Carmichael Park and alongside popular Fair Oaks Boulevard is lit up signaling the start of the holiday season. The tree stands at about 50 feet tall and can be viewed each night through the holiday season. Carmichael Recreation and Park District staff can be spotted atop a 65foot boom lifting during the week of the event, stringing lights and hanging decorations on the tree. The lighting takes place at 6:15 p.m. promptly and the event also features live music from the River City Concert Band, free arts and crafts for the kids, Santa visits, vendors and plenty of good tidings. Make DECEMBER 2016 • CALIFORNIA KIDS! Family Fun Guide

sure to bring your appetites too. The annual event partners with SactoMoFo to bring plenty of food trucks to help satiate appetites big and small. Participating food trucks include Squeeze Inn, Bacon MANia, On the Fry, La Mex Taqueria, Wandering Boba, Smokers Wild BBQ, Frenchy’s Waffles and Cowtown Creamery. Santa Claus will be on hand to help kick off the festivities and will be available from 5 to 8 p.m. for visits. It’s suggested folks bring in one canned good item per child per visit. All canned goods collected at the event will be donated to the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services, Spirit of Giving food drive. Admission to the event is free. Event sponsors include the Carmichael Kiwanis Club and the Carmichael Chamber of Commerce. For more information, visit or call 485-5322.

Symphony of 2000 reports the event was an “international success”


he Symphony of 2000 was an international success. The number of performers from 2014’s Symphony of 1000 increased to thirteen hundred instrumentalists and singers participating at Sacramento Memorial Auditorium under the baton of Maestro Michael Neumann on Sunday. After several

hours of rehearsal, the concert began with our “National Anthem” and a lively rendition of “Happy Birthday” for several of the participants. Beth Ruyak from Capital Public Radio was the emcee between the musical selections both choral and instrumental. Twenty Five musicians from Jinan China, via the Sacramento Jinan

Sister Cities Corporation, sang and played. Beth Ruyak even persuaded Michael Neumann to take a ‘selfie’ with the sea of musicians. Performers ranged in age from a young violinist age 4 to a Soprano age 85. Special guest musicians included Liz Tubbs from the Sacramento Pipe Band performing a moving solo performance

of “Amazing Grace” accompanied by the Symphony of 2000 ensemble and numerous piccolo players soaring on the “Stars and Stripes Forever” solo. The concert ended on a high note as the performers sung and played their hearts out for Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” from the Ninth Symphony.


Make it yourself! Christmas Collage


ather together an assortment of shiny materials, some glue and a crafty child, and see what they can put together!

You will need: Assortment of card, papers, craft foam, fabric, felt, stickers, glitter - get out the contents of the craft cupboard! PVA or white glue and glue stick Felt tip pens Templates A Christmas collage is an excellent craft for a group of kids, as they can share materials between them and often become even more creative when they see what the other children are doing. This is a wonderful activity for children who are not overly confident of their drawing / painting abilities. Any child is capable of putting together a stunning collage even if they really can’t draw! Sometimes providing simple shapes for them to fill in can help. For Christmas you could draw a tree, a star, bells or holly - or print out one of our Christmas templates.

Santa Face Collage


Christmas Window Silhouette


ids can make a Christmas window silhouette for a stunning Christmas window display. Wouldn’t we all love to be able to look out the window to see Santa and his reindeer silhouetted against the moon like this? Or try the Christmas tree silhouette idea - possibly better for younger children but just as pretty...

You will need: Black paper Yellow tissue paper Glitter (optional) Our sleigh and reindeer templates Scrap printer paper Laminating sheet


ids can have ripping and crumpling and sticking to create this Santa face collage - a quick and easy craft for Christmas.

Fold the tissue paper in half and cut a semi-circle shape from the center. Open out the paper so you have a circle. Lay this in the laminating sheet and sprinkle with glitter if you wish. Print and cut out our template on to the scrap paper. Use the template to cut out the shape from black paper. Lay the shape over the circle. Close the laminating sheet and ask an adult to carefully feed the picture through a laminator. Contact paper alternative:

You will need: White card Red tissue paper Pink tissue paper Flesh paper Cotton wool balls Glue

Instructions: Either draw a Santa face, or print ours onto card. Rip up bits of flesh colored paper and glue them to the face. You can use our photo as inspiration. Crumple up little balls of tissue paper and stick them on for the mouth and hat. Glue on cotton wool balls as the beard and hat trim.

You could also make the Christmas window silhouette using two sheets of clear contact paper. Peel the backing off one sheet of contact paper and lay it, sticky side up, on the table, Now place your moon, glitter and black silhouette carefully in position. Now peel the backing off the second sheet and carefully place it over the first piece, smoothing out bubbles as you go. Tricky, but possible with a bit of care!

Alternative for younger children: Sam wanted to do a Christmas tree silhouette, using black paper to form a hillside with a Christmas tree which he cut out himself. He sprinkled some lovely glittery “snowflakes” around the tree before laminating.

Crafts courtesy of: www.Activity - Keeping Kids Busy DECEMBER 2016 • CALIFORNIA KIDS! Family Fun Guide


Holiday Gift Books By Susan L. Roberts


olidays are a time to give those extraspecial books. Maybe it’s a poetry book, maybe it’s a big science book of creatures and colors, maybe it’s an extraordinary tale that wraps itself around a powerful message and can change—or create—a new belief. Explore these books that can enlarge your young reader’s world and instill in them a passion for reading. Raindrops Roll, by April Pulley Sayre (Beach Lane Books, ages 4-9) Introducing creatures in their natural habitat, Raindrops Roll engages children to wonder what it might be like to live in the rain. Photographer/Artist April Pulley Sayre blends loosely rhyming word descriptions with richly detailed photos to show nature’s experience of rain. We see mini showcases of grasshoppers, fireflies, leaves, birds, and lizards glistening in the beauty of wetness. It’s a great book to dwell upon on a rainy day. Reviewer’s Pick of the Month Oskar and the Eight Blessings, Richard Simon and Tanya Simon, illustrated by Mark Siegel (Roaring Book Press, ages 5-9) A beautifully illustrated, timeless story with a powerful message. The story begins before the title page, as did the stories of all the Jewish immigrants who escaped the war horrors of World War II. As a young boy, Oskar, a new Jewish immigrant, arrives in New York in 1938 with his father’s last words, “You have to look for the blessings,” an address and a picture of an aunt he has never seen. She lives only 100 blocks away on the avenue called Broadway. After a long time walking, he meets a lady feeding pigeons who gives him bread for the birds, but he eats it.  She gives him a small loaf of bread and he has the strength to keep walking.  Along his journey he receives eight blessings. The author’s note details the American history woven into the fictional story set in 1938 and a 1938 map of New York. Relaxed comic book style illustrations highlight the many different fearful sights and loving blessings Oskar encounters on

his journey. A very moving story that stays with the reader. What Do You Do With An Idea?, by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom (Compendium Kids, ages 4-8) Gold Independent Publisher’s Book Award A compelling tale of a young boy who has an idea and wonders what to do with it.  The new idea is kind of strange and he decides to leave it behind and walks away, but it follows him.  The boy worries about what others might think and tries to hide the idea, but the boy feels happier when his idea is around.  He plays with it until one day his idea became its own, transforming the black-and-white illustrations into full living color.  Brilliant!  The tale speaks to a child’s inner self and imagination, and gives him or her permission to have, cultivate and grow their own ideas.  The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, by Beatrix Potter, illustrated by Quentin Blake (Frederick Warne, ages 4-8) If you liked Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, you may like her latest book, The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots. Yes, her latest. Potter’s completed manuscript, written in 1914, was uncovered and published. Like all her tales, she lures readers into another land, using creative, home-spun names like Winkiepeeps and Mrs. Tiggy-winkle. In this story, Kitty sneaks out at night and goes on a prowl. She runs into crows, two ferrets, and even an older Peter Rabbit! She tries to ‘poach’ him, but he cleverly leads her into a trap. Stuck, she waits her doom, swearing off the life of poaching. Kitty eventually finds a way to get herself out of danger and returns home safely. A full, rich story taking readers back in time. Colorful Creatures, edited by Welan Owen (Sandy Creek/ Imprint of Sterling Publishing, ages 4-9) This extra-large sized book is perfect for a gift, especially if the receiver loves animals, birds, insects and fish of all colors. Colorful Creatures contains 80 pages of creatures that are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink & purples and more! Readers will find Tasmanian Devils, Striped-Redknee Tarantulas, Lionfish, and Chinchillas. My favorites were of Macaws; one was shot from behind the bird where I could see it’s great

wings lift him into the sky and the other was a profile where its eye was staring straight into mine. Quite intimate and intense at the same time, the photos will fascinate young readers into examining each creature in detail. Perfect for long winter days. Susan L. Roberts ( lives in Sacramento, CA where she reads dozens of picture books each month and reviews the best to help parents and teachers find books that will inspire and develop a child’s curiosity and love of life. An aspiring picture book author, she hopes to be published soon. CALIFORNIA KIDS! Family Fun Guide • DECEMBER 2016

Matías Bombal’s Hollywood Arrival The MPAA has rated this PG-13

Paramount Pictures brings us science fiction with “Arrival” based on the book “The Stories of Your Life and Others” by Ted Chiang, adapted for the screen by Eric Heisserer. Several large spacecraft arrive across the earth, causing widespread global panic as the military from all nations try to determine what is the intent of these UFO’s. The United States assigns Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) to enlist the aid of a linguist that they have used before, Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), to assist with communication with the aliens. She agrees to go to a location in the western hemisphere where one such craft hovers over the surface of the globe to attempt to understand just who “they” may be and why “they” have come. Using all of her skills and assisted by scientist Ian Donnelly, played by Jeremy Renner, the two regularly visit the inside of the craft and try to understand and communicate. Will it lead to answers? This movie, directed by Denis Villeneuve, has visual references that remind one of “2001: A Space Odyssey” and 1951’s “The Thing from Another World”. I found it one of the most refreshing science fiction movies since “Ex Machina” of a few years ago. Here, at last, is sci-fi without the gimmickry of 3-D and a smorgasbord of visual effects, loud music and disgusting looking monsters or people. Although it may not be a picture that will lend itself to repeated watching due to the way the story unfolds, at initial viewing you are taken by the subtle way that it slowly builds, allowing for great character development and mood. Nothing flashy here, I just loved that. The idea that we might try to understand the unknown before killing it off out of fear is the strong and wonderful aspect of this story. The shapes of the alien’s language, not unlike a drink ring on a Rorschach test, is very organic in appearance and clever. The aliens themselves seemed mysterious and different but not horrifying, making this a great story of possibility, and

not one of gloom and doom. Of course, the humans of the globe react in fear and threaten violence, a point of the story not lost on me, yet the idealism of Dr. Banks sees us through to a higher human level. The picture also features the talented Michael Stuhlbarg, again somewhat underused. I enjoyed “Arrival” and think you will appreciate its subtle nature. It is an excellent production beautifully realized.

Almost Christmas The MPAA has rated this PG-13

Universal Pictures offers director/writer David E. Talberts feel good family “dramady” for the holiday season with featuring some of the most popular black actors working in an ensemble. “Almost Christmas” gives you the back story of all of the family members over the years to the present right during the title sequence. From that moment on, we see this somewhat dysfunctional family as they gather for their first Christmas holiday at home following the death of their mother. The father is played by likable Danny Glover and other cast members include Gabrielle Union, Nicole Ari Parker, Jessie T. Usher, Omar Epps, Romany Malco and the irrepressible Aunt May, played by Mo’Nique. Although this may be marketed to the African - American community, I found this to be a somewhat predictable, but at times very funny picture reflecting the very human


Amy Adams reaches out to touch a new friend from another world. Paramount Pictures.

nature of family gatherings, a universal experience in the coming holiday season for folks of every kind. The story of the gathering offers subplots; a rivalry between two sisters, a philandering husband of one of the two sisters, one young athlete with a pain pill addiction, one son running for public office and the sale by the father of the family home, which he is keeping secret from the family. You are sure to laugh as much as I did through the more frequent comedy moments of “Almost Christmas” in this first Christmas themed movie to be released this year. Hollywood usually waits until Thanksgiving to start the rush, but it seems the Christmas mood comes earlier and earlier every year. This year, we may need a little Christmas.

Danny Glover gets some love from his wife’s sister, played by Mo’Nique. Photo: Quantrell D. Colbert Universal Pictures

Schools celebrated democracy with election activities


s voters waited in lines at polling stations across the country on Tuesday, Nov. 8 students at Harry Dewey Fundamental Elementary lined up outside three classrooms and prepared to cast their own ballots. “I liked going in the classrooms and feeling like an adult,” said fourth-grader Reagan Cottongim. “It was fun.” Students were given ballots and chose between the two major party presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Sixth grade students ran the show, playing the parts of security guards, check-in staff and ballot box monitors. They also researched topics — like the electoral college or requirements to run for president — and presented their findings to younger students. “We told them about why it’s important to vote, their civic duty,” said sixth-grader Audrey Dudley. “It’s important to vote so that the government knows what you want.” The classrooms were decorated top to bottom with streamers and flags, and each voting booth was painted with red, white and blue phrases about the candidates and election process. “We wanted to get the kids involved in the community and the school, and we thought this was a great way of engaging them,” said Donna Corey, a sixth grade teacher. “My students have been so excited.” “I think it was cool to vote who you think should win,” said sixthgrader Mason Erskine. Highlights from other election activities across San Juan Unified schools include: At Sylvan Middle School, students studied aspects of the election through the lens of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math). They built elec-


tion ballot boxes in shop class, designed campaign posters in art class and researched science and technology related propositions and measures, culminating in a mock election. At San Juan High School, juniors researched various candidates, measures and propositions on the California ballot and gave presentations to staff and other students. They then held a mock election. At Mariemont Elementary School, students participated in a mock election and voted on school-related issues. They selected which movie to watch during rainy-day recess; what nonprofits to support with money from a recent fundraiser; and what activities to include in their end-ofschool celebration. Source:


Who wrote that? KIDLIT CREATORS WHO MAKE KIDS WANT TO READ An interview with with Nikki Shannon Smith

By Bitsy Kemper

Who Wrote That? is a monthly column profiling talented authors and illustrators who bring children’s books to life.


hat could be cuter than a picture book about Christmas? A book about a Christmas elf? Think cuter. A little Christmas elf? Bingo. Nikki Shannon Smith did just that with her charming The Little Christmas Elf, a Little Golden Book published by Random House. Illustrated by Susan Mitchell, The Little Christmas Elf is the story of how Nina, the smallest elf in Santa’s workshop, struggles to finish her teddy bear toy in time for Christmas. Her perseverance [spoiler alert] ends up saving the day. Bitsy: The Little Christmas Elf has the look and feel of a classic story yet was published within the past five years. What keeps it so relevant? Nikki: Well, the message is timeless. One of the best compliments I’ve heard is when someone told me it’s a “new classic.” BK: How did you come up with the elf and the story idea? NSS: Believe it or not, this book is the result of HOMEWORK! I’m in a writer’s critique group. The holidays were approaching, and my critique group leader decided everyone had to write a Christmas story. I resisted until the last minute, and struggled with writer’s block, but The Little Christmas Elf was the outcome. I started by choosing a character, then I came up with an obstacle, and it really flowed from that point. It pays to do your homework! BK: Do you think the season has anything to do with the book’s charm? NSS: I love this book, and I love Christmas, and I think it captures some of what makes Christmas magical. And I love that Nina is triumphant at the end.

Nikki Shannon Smith

BK: Tell us about being a writer. NSS: I create because I have to. I’m restless and grouchy when I go for long periods without writing. When I’m not writing, I’m often thinking about writing. I did not grow up wanting to be a writer, but I always was one, even when I didn’t realize it. I wanted to be a nurse, the first female president, a lawyer, and then a teacher. Looking back on my childhood, I was always reading, writing short stories and poems, and even making up tales I told my cousins for fun. It took me until I was 36 years old to realize I needed to be writing, and I haven’t stopped since. BK: Where do you get your ideas? NSS: Ideas are funny. They’re hard to find when you’re looking for them. When you stop grasping for them, they come to you. Ideas are little scared puppies. I just have to be calm and open, and they come to me. Often, I get ideas while I’m standing somewhere staring into space. (Daydreaming is IMPORTANT!) Sometimes my ideas end up not being so great, and I either don’t write them down, or I don’t like them after they’re written. If an idea is really good, it will not go away. Twice I’ve tried to make ideas go away, because I didn’t want to write them, but good ideas are stubborn. They won’t disappear. One was the novel I just finished, and one is the novel I’m about to start.

BK: Do you have a writing background? NSS: I’ve been in elementary education for over 20 years now, and a lot of what I bring to my picture book writing comes from my understanding of children. I did not go to school to be a writer, but I did major in English, and got my MA in Curriculum and Instruction: Language and Literacy. I’ve always loved words! BK: What about your readers, what do they love? NSS: Sometimes after a school visit, I get thank you notes and pictures from children. Once I had a letter addressed to my main character, Nina. It came in a decorated envelop. What I love about it, is that the child so related to Nina, to the point that Nina was real for her. That’s the kind of reader response authors dream of! BK: Didn’t you get some local recognition? NSS: One of my proudest accomplishments is an award I received for more than my writing. In 2014, I was recognized at the Yolo County Women’s History Month celebration. The theme was Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment. I am so proud of that award, and so honored and humbled that I was chosen. One of the things I love about this particular award is that I was recognized for all of the things that make me who I am: a teacher, (at the time, a principal), a writer, and an

advocate for social justice. It’s also meaningful because it was an award that made me feel like a special part of my local community. Maybe our community is the one that got the award by having Nikki in it! Bitsy Kemper is author of 15 children’s books. You may have seen Bitsy on CNN, heard her

on national radio, noticed her in a range of places from Parenting magazine to Writing Children’s Books for Dummies, or seen her work in countless newspapers, radio and TV stations across the U.S of A. Busy with three kids (four if you count her husband), she happily finds time to present at schools and writer conferences from CA to NY. Find out more at

LEARN MORE ABOUT NIKKI SHANNON SMITH Website: Twitter: @nikki2smith Facebook: NikkiShannonSmithBooks

Nikki will be moderating a panel about diversity in children’s literature for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s “Spring Spirit” Conference on April 1, 2017. Some of Nikki’s favorite things include Disneyland, long walks, reading, writing, laughing and being silly The Japanese proverb “Fall down seven times, get up eight” speaks to her loud and clear. “I find perseverance is a theme in everything I write, even when I don’t plan it that way.”

BOOKS BY NIKKI SHANNON SMITH THE LITTLE CHRISTMAS ELF Illustrated by Susan Mitchell Random House/Little Golden Books

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Travel with Your Family to Europe for the Cost of Only Your Airfare By Carmel L. Mooney


e had one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of our lives. We traveled to Spain for a week to teach conversational English to corporate business people in and around Madrid, Spain. By the end of the program as we all exchanged hugs, tears, addresses and memories to last a lifetime, I realized what I had done was one of the most rewarding things, next to giving birth to three beautiful daughters, I had ever done in my entire life. So, how does that have anything to do with family travel you may be wondering? Well, Vaughantown offers an experience for families to travel to various locations in Europe while the adults in the family “teach” conversational English to the grown-ups, the kids mingle, socialize, play and “teach” the children. What a better way to experience culture and international human experience, than as a family, while staying for free at a four star resort, and dining, living, and playing with Europeans? When we went in October to be a part of the Vaughantown program, we stayed in Gredos, Avila, Spain in a gorgeous ranch in the countryside a few hours from Madrid, where we dined three meals a day, socialized, played, created skits and projects, and forged lasting friendships with eager Spaniards. After our trip, we elected to visit other parts of Europe such as Italy and Germany at our leisure, visiting friends, as some Vaughantown attendees sometimes choose to do when their teaching is over. Waking every morning to native birds and watching colts frolic in the pastures as far as the eye can see, walking along centuries old rock walls and castles, and dining and relaxing with fine local wines every night till the wee hours of the night (yes, they have siestas every afternoon), were just a few highlights of the Spain portion of the adventure while we stayed at a charming sprawling ranch resort in the Spanish countryside. There we “worked” every day helping our new Spanish friends with their conversational English. We now have more than two dozen new Spanish friends welcoming us back to their country anytime, who feel they are indebted to us for improving their corporate performance in their jobs. Many of them worked for Oracle, HP, solar energy firms, law, aviation, and other high profile jobs where our helping them to improve their English, was invaluable to their lives.


Did it feel like work? Not for a moment, since we all had fun every day, all day and we had meaningful group and one and one activities planned through out each day. Our new friends even threw all of us Anglos (English speakers) a huge dance party the last night. It was a moving and tear jerking gesture to see about 40 people, half Spaniards and the rest of us Anglos from Australia, England, Texas, San Diego, Florida, the Carolinas, and South Africa, all come together and blend as a group with one common goal to help one another and form a lasting bond as friends forever. If teaching your family about another culture’s food, customs, laws, and human emotion is of interest, you need to consider a family program with Vaughantown. CALIFORNIA KIDS! Family Fun Guide • DECEMBER 2016

Faces and Places:




On Friday, Oct. 21 from 4 to 7 p.m. Matsuyama Elementary School held its annual harvest festival. A “cornucopia of fun” for the entire family, the festival featured arts and crafts, a pumpkin patch, a cake walk, dancing, and lots of delicious food. Funds raised by the Harvest Festival directly benefit Matsuyama teachers by providing much needed classroom supplies. Matsuyama is located at 7680 Windbridge Drive.

View more photos online at: DECEMBER 2016 • CALIFORNIA KIDS! Family Fun Guide

Ages 3½ thru adult Private piano instruction Over 30 years of teaching experience

(916) 238-8072 1

Global Winter Wonderland has returned to Cal Expo Global Winter Wonderland is back to Sacramento for a third season with a new theme – Holiday Fun for Everyone. The magical world of light spanning 17 acres at Cal Expo has been unveiled with all new attractions, including massive illuminated lanterns, thrilling rides, an ice skating rink, entertainers and interactive holiday activities and is open for the season until Jan. 8, 2017. “Our experience in Sacramento has been so wonderful that we decided to stay for a third year to create a holiday tradition that local families look forward to,” said Lulu Huang, event founder. “Along with our brand new theme, Global Winter Wonderland will add hands-on activities to make the experience even more memorable for our guests.” Global Winter Wonderland will build an interactive craft center to inspire magical moments for children of all ages. The craft center will feature a variety of DIY stations where visitors can create their own ornaments, decorate lanterns or write a letter to Santa Claus. Children can also take their annual photo with Santa at Global Winter Wonderland and the Holiday Ice Rink will return for guests who wish to add an evening on the ice to their holiday experience. Out on the grounds, guests will enjoy a totally new experience as they take in iconic scenes from Toyland, Candyland and the North Pole to celebrate the new theme, Holiday Fun for Everyone. All of the illuminated lanterns are currently under construction, handcrafted in silk and steel by talented artisans. Event organizers are also searching the globe to bring unique

entertainers to perform in the Circus of Light, an action-packed variety show on the main stage. “For more than 160 years the grounds of the State Fair have provided a constant setting for celebrating and showcasing the best of California, and we welcome Global Winter Wonderland

as they present a portion of California’s rich artistry and diversity,” said Rick Pickering, CEO of the California Exposition & State Fair. Global Winter Wonderland has created nearly 100 local jobs at Cal Expo during the holiday season to staff the theme park from now until January.

About ICEG International Culture Exchange Group (ICEG), the producer of Global Winter Wonderland, was founded by President Lulu Huang to create a multicultural festival in the United States. ICEG is the first company in history to bring lanterns to the United States, making Global Winter Won-

derland the first and largest lantern festival outside of China. It is a rich tradition that dates back more than 2,000 years. For more information on Global Winter Wonderland and ICEG please visit www. General admission prices are $18 for adults and $16 for children and seniors. Children ages 3 and under are admitted free of charge. Unlimited ride wristbands are $25. Ice skating is $12 and includes free skate rental. Group admission is $14 each for groups with 10 people or more (any age). Hours vary. Visit < sacramento/plan-your-visit/ maps-and-directions/index. cfm> for more information.



What’s Happening, Kids! OLD SACRAMENTO UNDERGROUND TOUR: Looking for something unique and memorable to do with friends and family this holiday season? Go underground! Revealing what’s been hidden beneath the city for more than 150 years, ever-popular Old Sacramento Underground Tours give visitors the opportunity to discover the strange but true stories below historic buildings and sidewalks. Now in its seventh season, the tour allows guests to explore excavated foundations and enclosed pathways, while entertaining and knowledgeable tour guides recount the tales of the devastation, perseverance, and determination that led to California’s only successful street-raising project. Underground tour guests need to check in at the Sacramento History Museum before descending below several historic Old Sacramento buildings and be prepared to walk in areas with uneven surfaces and low ceilings. Advance tour tickets are recommended and can be purchased at www.sachistorymuseum. org. Where: Sacramento History Museum, 101 I St. On weekends Dec. 3, 4, 10 and 11 at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Throughout the holiday week December 26 thru 31 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. AdultOnly Underground After Hour tours. Adult tours are finished for the season, please check back in 2017! Cost: Regular tours: $15 for adults; $12 for HOSF members; $10 for youths (ages 6-17); children five and under are free. For more information, call 808-7059 or visit www. SANTAS NEEDED TO FILL HOLIDAY STOCKINGS FOR FORMERLY HOMELESS WOMEN AND CHILDREN BY DEC. 7: Local residents can bring smiles to formerly homeless women and children this holiday season by contributing to Women’s Empowerment’s annual Holiday Stocking Drive. The group is seeking 200 unstuffed stockings and specific fillers for local infants and toddlers, children, teens and adult women. “There is nothing like hearing the squeals of joy from children and their mothers who have gone from having nothing to now having a place to call home during the holidays and cheerful stockings to hang in their homes,” said Lisa Culp, executive director, Women’s Empowerment. “But these stockings not only bring joy, they give these families necessary items so they can stay healthy and warm this winter as they rebuild their lives.” For the list of items needed, visit www. Those interested also can donate $35 to have a volunteer elf fill a stocking or donate $15 Target gift cards. Items are needed by Dec. 7 and can be dropped off at 1590 North A St. Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, Women’s Empowerment was recently featured on NBC’s The TODAY Show for offering the most comprehensive job-readiness program in the Sacramento area designed specifically for women who are homeless and their children. The 2014 Organization of the Year has graduated 1,367 homeless women and their 3,700 children. Last year, 93 percent of graduates found homes and 83 percent found jobs or enrolled in school or training. The program combines self-esteem courses, job training, health classes and support services to help homeless women across diverse ages, races and cultures. Women’s Empowerment is funded through

private donations from the community and receives no government funding except for in-kind rent from the County of Sacramento. To make a donation: “12 DAYS OF MIDTOWN” IN DECEMBER HIGHLIGHTS FESTIVE & FUN WAYS TO CELEBRATE THE SEASON: Committed to fostering a center for culture, creativity and vibrancy in Sacramento’s urban core, the Midtown Association is pleased to present “12 Days of Midtown” where local businesses and organizations offer celebratory events, activities and specials to encourage visitors to spend time in Midtown this season. “ The holidays offer a perfect opportunity to explore and discover Midtown,” said Emily Baime Michaels, Executive Director of the Midtown Association. “With so many locally owned businesses and eateries, guests to Midtown can take great pride in supporting the community while engaging in festive activities and finding unique gift items along the way.” Throughout the first 12 days of December, Midtown guests can experience something extra special each day, a sampling of which includes the following: Thursday, Dec. 1 – Holiday themed chocolates and treats debut at Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates Friday, Dec. 2 – “Holiday In…A Destination Celebration” by the Sacramento Gay Men’s Chorus Saturday, Dec. 3 – FREE Makers Mart (19th & J) showcasing more than 40 artisans and crafters Sunday, Dec. 4 – Santa Show opening & hands-on art activity at Art of Toys Monday, Dec. 5 – Half-priced Volcano Bowls at The Jungle Bird Tuesday, Dec. 6 – Hot Toddy competition at Golden Bear Wednesday, Dec. 7 – FREE “Lovefool” live music at Lowbrau Thursday, Dec. 8 – FREE line dancing lessons at Hart Senior Center Friday, Dec. 9 – “ THE SANTALAND DIARIES” at Capital Stage Saturday, Dec. 10 – FREE lit luminarias experience in the Handle District Sunday, Dec. 11 – FREE Christmas caroling at the MARRS Building Monday, Dec. 12 – “Appetizers for Entertaining” class at Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op Midtown is both walkable and bikefriendly with parking available in nearby garages located at 1801 L Street or the East End Garage on 17th Street between


L & Capitol plus various lots throughout Midtown. The City of Sacramento is offering FREE parking on weekdays after 4:30 p.m. and all-day on weekends starting through Christmas in Midtown. For more parking specific information, please visit For a more comprehensive (and continually updated) listing of “12 Days of Midtown” activities and/or more information about Midtown Sacramento, please visit THURSDAY, DEC. 1 HOLIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS AT SWANSTON PARK: Crafts, treats, lights, free family event from 6 to 8 p.m., 2350 Northrop Ave. CARMICHAEL PARK HOLIDAY TREE LIGHTING: A 50-foot Christmas tree will be lit up in Carmichael Park. The event happens from 5 to 8 p.m. with the lighting starting promptly at 6:15 p.m. For more information, see page 2.

SATURDAY, DEC. 3 HOLIDAY CARDS AND CRAFTS AT MCCLATCHY LIBRARY– Come celebrate the winter holidays by making your own winter holiday cards and creations. We will use paper, markers, pompoms, Popsicle sticks, glitter markers, Bingo Dots, and other decorative materials to make holiday cards for your loved ones, winter-themed ornaments, and other holiday decorations. School Age. Dec. 3 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Ella K. McClatchy Library, 2112 22nd St., Sacramento. FULTON AVE. HOLIDAY TREE LIGHTING: The Fulton Avenue Association presents the 10th annual Holiday Tree Lighting and gift drive benefiting the Children’s Receiving Home. The home is committed to positively impacting the lives of children, youth and families affected by abuse, neglect, behavioral health issues and trauma in California. Area gift drop locations can be found by visiting or Bring a gift to the tree lighting or donate $1 (or more) to the CRH and get a photo with Santa. The tree lighting event starts at 5 p.m. at Tognotti’s Auto World, 2509 Fulton Ave. (on the corner of Fulton Avenue and El Camino Boulevard). There will also be a Christmas tree raffle, music and entertainment, hot dogs, chicken, coffee, cookies and more.

SATURDAY, DEC. 10 CAMELLIA WALDORF SCHOOL’S 28TH ANNUAL WINTER FAIRE: Come celebrate the magic of the season at Camellia! Enjoy children’s puppet shows and craft activities, live music and entertainment, holiday shopping with local artisans, organic coffee and baked goods, delicious food, gingerbread houses and a children’s store stocked with treasures for young shoppers -- all at Camellia’s Pocket neighborhood location. Free admission, nominal fee for some activities. It takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Camellia Waldorf School, 7450 Pocket Road. For more information, call 427-5022 or go to LEGO MANIA! AT MCCLATCHY LIBRARY – Like building with Legos? Join us for our monthly Lego free-play afternoon! Legos and Duplo Legos will be provided. Family/All Ages. Dec. 10 from 2:00 p.m to 4:00 p.m. at Ella K. McClatchy Library, 2112 22nd St., Sacramento. HOLIDAY MAGIC AT THE SACRAMENTO ZOO: The holidays are here and it’s time to enjoy the season! Bundle up the family for Holiday Magic at the Sacramento Zoo on Saturday, Dec. 10. Throughout the day, special gifts will be delivered to the animals. See them pounce, tear and stomp into their one-ofa-kind holiday gifts through out the day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 3930 West Land Park Drive, Sacramento. SATURDAY, DEC. 10 AND SUNDAY, DEC. 11 WINTER WONDERLAND AT FAIRYTALE TOWN: Mark your calendar for Fairytale Town’s annual Winter Wonderland celebration! For eight days and nights, our storybook park will be transformed into a wonderland of twinkling lights, festive decor, snowfall and more. Enjoy even more holiday fun on the weekends with a visit from Santa, Victorian carolers and craft activities. And don’t miss meeting two of Santa’s reindeer during the first weekend, December 10 and 11. Fairytale Town is located at 3901 Land Park Drive. For more information, call 808-7462 or visit TUESDAY, DEC. 13 TEEN BOOK CLUB AT MCCLATCHY LIBRARY – Join us for our monthly teen book club meeting! Enjoy snacks and participate in a lively discussion of our book of the month. Copies of

this month’s book will be available to pick up at the front desk. This month’s book: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. For ages 13-18. Dec. 13, from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Ella K. McClatchy Library, 2112 22nd St., Sacramento. SATURDAY, DEC. 17 WINTER MAGIC WITH MIKE DELLA PENA AT MCCLATCHY LIBRARY – Come join us as magician and teacher Mike della Pena will amuse and astound us with magic tricks to celebrate the winter season. This humorous, interactive show will be fun for the whole family! Family/All Ages. Dec. 17 from 2:00 p.m to 3:00 p.m. at Ella K. McClatchy Library, 2112 22nd St., Sacramento. RECURRING CHAUTAUQUA PLAYHOUSE CHILDREN’S THEATRE presents “Alice’s Christmas Party in Wonderland” Chautauqua Playhouse Children’s Theatre will present the new Holiday Comedy “Alice’s Christmas Party in Wonderland” by Warren Harrison (based on the characters of Lewis Carroll), beginning on December 3rd at the Playhouse. The show will run on Saturdays at 1:00 pm though December 17. The performances will be held at the Chautauqua Playhouse, 5325 Engle Road in the La Sierra Community Center in Carmichael. Admission is $8.00 for all seats. Advance purchase of tickets is strongly recommended. Alice finds a mysterious invitation while decorating the Christmas Tree. She has been invited to the Mad Hatter’s Christmas Party.  She must travel back to Wonderland to see her friends, but can’t be late, or the Queen of Hearts will have her head. Along the way, she is reunited with Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, the White Queen, the Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts and a new character, Beatrice Thesaurus, the Pathkeeper to Wonderland. Songs and riddles and some stolen tarts keep this fast paced story a delight for the Holiday Season! The direction is by Jill McMahon. The cast features Andrea Kersten, Gregory Smith, Lynnette Blaney, Laurren Cooper and a host of other well-known local actors. Information and tickets are available through the Chautauqua Playhouse website: www.cplayhouse. org or call the box office at (916) 4897529, during business hours.


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