Author brings ‘Kitty Claus’ to life for preschoolers

April 26, 2013 by

Illinois author Terry L. Needham first told the children at Friday’s “Reading with Leaders” how the story came about. Then he recruited two little girls in Hello Kitty shoes as his special page-turning assistants.

And finally he settled down to tell the story of “Kitty Claus” to the nearly 40 preschoolers gathered upstairs at Neighbor to Neighbor.

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Needham, a Kansas City native who now lives in Romeoville, Ill.,, wrote the story years ago when his daughter Angela was a child.

“Every night I’d put her to bed and I’d tell her a story off the top of my head,” he recalls. “When she particularly liked one, she’d say, ‘You better write that down.’ ‘Kitty Claus’ was one of those.”

So while Angela was the inspiration for the story, Needham’s granddaughter is the artist behind the illustrations.

Lizzy Dodig was 15 when her grandfather recruited her to draw pictures to go with his story, and she used the money she earned to take part in a school trip to China. Now a high school sophomore in Lee’s Summit, Mo., Dodig spent about six months completing the illustrations.

Both the author and the illustrator signed the copies of “Kitty Claus” that the children received at the end of the storytelling session Friday.

Needham and his sister Patti are in Kansas on a book tour for his “When I Was a Child,” a historical novel about his uncle Louis. The 2011 book tells the story of his grandparents and their six children, who lived on a farm just north of Hays, Kan., until a 1926 wind and snow storm left the mother dead and the family shattered. The three youngest children — including Needham’s mother, Geraldine — were sent to live in Abilene, Kan., at St. Joseph Orphanage, operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

Terry and Patti Needham are spending several days in Concordia, spending time with Sisters of St. Joseph and also visiting the National Orphan Train Museum Complex, the POW camp and other sites.

Their visit was arranged by Sister Jan McCormick, who lives in Chapman and has been active in collecting information and stories about St. Joseph Orphanage, which closed in the late 1950s.

The “Reading with Leaders” storytelling series for preschoolers (ages 3, 4 and 5) at Neighbor to Neighbor began in September and will conclude with the 13th session next Friday, May 3. The book slated for the final reading is “Green Eggs & Ham.” Advance registration is required, by calling 262-4215.

The “Reading with Leaders” series is coordinated by the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Initiatives office and hosted by Neighbor to Neighbor, and is funded in part with a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation.



One Response to “Author brings ‘Kitty Claus’ to life for preschoolers”

  1. Loretta A. Jasper, csj on April 27th, 2013 4:57 pm

    Neither did I read the story, or hear the story read, but spending time with the author and his sister is an indication of family ties and the value of having the story be told and illustrated.
    Pass this on parents and grandparents! Let your story be told, if not written and illustrated.

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