Childrens Books
School Visits
Cast of Characters
Donation Request
Teachers Lesson Plans_

web store
view book index web store

Silver Packages_

preview this book
larger view

Author: Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by: Chris K. Soentpiet

Gr K-5/Ages 5+
32 pages/ picture book
8¾" X 10"
ISBN #0-531-30051-X

$16.95 US
$22.95 CAN

ISBN#0-531-33051-6 (RLB)
$17.99 US

$23.95 CAN

Orchard Books imprint of:
555 Broadway

New York, NY 10012
(800) 724-6527

  • American Bookseller Pick of the List 1997

In Appalachia each Christmas, a boy named Frankie waits beside the tracks for the Christmas Train, which will bring presents to the children who live in coal towns and hollows. Year after year, Frankie hopes that one particular gift-one very special gift-will be tossed to him from that train. And it is this enduring hope that will guide him to the true meaning of the season. Cynthia Rylant's story about expectation and transforming power of kindness first appeared in her acclaimed collection Children of Christmas.

I can honestly admit, I didn't have to read the manuscript to agree to collaborate with the author, Cynthia Rylant. She's a prolific storyteller who writes from the heart. I’d been a fan of her work since Missing May. SILVER PACKAGES is a great story with a surprise twist at the end. -Chris Soentpiet

"This story was inspired by two true events. One is the annual trip through the Appalachian mountains by the "Santa Train." Each year volunteers throw packages from the train to the children living in the hills and hollows who don't have much. The train started visiting in 1940 and has been "Santa" ever since.

And the second true event which inspired SILVER PACKAGES was my own longing as a child. I was living with my grandparents, who didn't have much money. They took me to a place where poor children were given one Christmas present apiece. I saw a nurse kit and really wanted it, for my mother was away studying to become a nurse. But another child ahead of me chose the kit, and I didn't get one.

The illustrator of this book, Chris Soentpiet, actually made a trip from New York City to West Virginia to see Appalachian mountains and homes. He visited Logan and Boone counties, which are very isolated and still look so much as they did fifty years ago. As a result, Chris's paintings are both authentic and luminous."

Cynthia Rylant

"Rylant's story is enhanced by the paintings of Chris K. Soentpiet, whose renderings of frosty Appalachian days and a young boy's memories are vibrant. Together, Rylant and Soentpiet have created a story for children and parents too. That's as it should be; books like this remind us all that the most important gifts can't be found under any tree." -New York Times, Sunday December 7, 1997

"Full page watercolor paintings provide panoramic views of the Appalachian countryside, with deep night-time blues and wintry colors, strengthening the sense of place. A well-rendered reflection on the importance of giving and sharing." -School Library Journal

"Soentpiet's handsome, realistic paintings captures the drama, rural landscape, and full range of human emotions. Spiritual, yet not religious, this Christmas story is recommended." -Booklist

Cynthia Rylant-- has written many award wining books, including Missing May, winner of the Newberry Medal; Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds, which won the Boston Glove-Horn Book Award; and When I was Young in the Mountains, a Caldecott Honor book.

Silver Packages Featured in Houston Chronicle Wednesday December 24, 1997

65 Years of Christmas Cheer

The 65th annual CSX Santa Train eases through the crowd at Fort Blackmore, Virginia, on the former Clinchfield Railroad, on November 17, 2007. It will stop at the crossing so Santa and his helpers can toss toys and candy from the open platform office car to the waiting children and their families. Since 1943 the train has made its 110-mile run from Shelby, Kentucky, to Kingsport, Tennessee, bringing holiday cheer to the isolated Appalachian villages along the route.

Railfan and Railroad magazine
February 2008
(photo credit: Dustin Grizzle)

Theme: SILVER PACKAGES can be used to introduce your students to poverty, suburban life, Appalachia region, Christmas, railroads and trains.

Background: This story was inspired by a real train, the "Santa Train" which rolls through the Appalachian Mountains each Christmas season. From this train, tons of toys and treats are tossed by volunteers to the children of coal towns who wait patiently by the tracks. This has been happening every Christmas since 1943.

Pre-reading: Show the students the cover of the book, read the title, author and illustrators name. Ask them what they think the book will be about. Next show the illustration of the train coming into town. Now what do they think the book will be about? Ask if anyone has ever taken a train ride. Where did they go? Did the train look more like the one inside the book? Was the train crowded? Where did they ride?

This story takes place in the Appalachian Mountains -- tell the students the book has a story within a story. Have the students look at a map to locate the Appalachian Mountains (hint: Northeast).

Reading: As you read and show the illustrations, have the students look closely at the drawings. What details can they find in the pictures? Have them look closely at the expressions of the main character, Frankie -- how do they change during the story. Ask the students how they think Frankie is feeling. Can they tell by the illustrations?

Geography: Have the students plan a trip across the Appalachian Mountains. Ask them to estimate the miles, how long will it take from their school to board a train to their destination. What do they need to bring for their ride -- food, clothes, entertainment items, books etc. What do the think they will see along the way -- will they see rivers, mountains, lakes, deserts, plains, farms, factories, cities etc.

Science: In present time, the Appalachian Mountain's forest, park, air, rivers and trails are under conservation efforts. Why is it important to ecologically preserve this region? Study geology on mountainsides if possible while trekking.

Literature: Read CHILDREN OF CHRISTMAS: STORES FOR THE SEASON by Cynthia Rylant. Look for other books by Cynthia Rylant and Chris Soentpiet. If you really enjoyed SILVER PACKAGES write a review and post it on-line at or so others can enjoy your reading experience.

Art: Make a silver package by taking silver colored paper and wrapping around a box. Decorate a Christmas tree with it.


Biography | Appearances | School Visits | Books | Donation Request | Yin Author Visit | Contact | Web Store