Author brings ‘Kitty Claus’ to Neighbor to Neighbor

April 19, 2013 by

T.L. Needham

Illinois author Terry L. Needham will bring his children’s book “Kitty Claus” to a special “Reading with Leaders” storytelling session April 26.

The storytelling series for preschoolers (ages 3, 4 and 5) at Neighbor to Neighbor began in September and will continue through May, and had been planned for 12 books. But Needham and his story of a Christmas cat were added because of his strong connections to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

Needham’s grandparents and their six children 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.

Needham tells the story in his 2011 book “When I Was a Child,” a historical novel about the life of his uncle, Louis.

“The book has been incredibly well received,” he said in a recent telephone interview.

Needham, a Kansas City native who now lives in Romeoville, Ill., will be in Kansas as part of a book tour for “When I Was a Child,” with readings and book signings planned for Hays, Wilson and Wichita.

“Kitty Claus,” meanwhile, grew out of his own experience.

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.

Needham has received a number of awards for his books, including a Bronze Medal from “Readers Favorites” for “When I Was a Child.” That book was also honored as a finalist for the USA Book News Best Book Award in the U.S. history category. A collection of his poems, titled “Pesky Poems,” was also awarded a Silver Medal by Readers Favorites.

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.

Advance registration is required, by calling 262-4215. Each child registered will receive a free copy of “Kitty Claus,” autographed by both Dodig and Needham.

The storytelling begins at 10 a.m. Friday  upstairs at Neighbor to Neighbor, 103 E. Sixth St. Parents, grandparents and younger siblings are invited to relax with coffee and doughnuts downstairs in the center.

The final “Reading with Leaders” session will be May 3 with “Green Eggs & Ham.”

 

 

 

 

 

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