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.
MY THOUGHTS OF SILVER PACKAGES:
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. Id
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."
"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
"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
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
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
(photo credit: Dustin Grizzle)
Theme: SILVER PACKAGES can be used to introduce your
students to poverty, suburban life, Appalachia region, Christmas, railroads and trains.
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
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
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?
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.
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.
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 Amazon.com
so others can enjoy your reading experience.
Make a silver package by taking silver colored paper and
wrapping around a box. Decorate a Christmas tree with it.