Dec 22, 2013
06:24 AMArts & Entertainment
Shoreline Author's Take on Mistletoe: A Dog Who Wakes Santa Just in Time
What if Santa Claus fell asleep on Christmas Eve? Fortunately, in Richard Wolf’s charming holiday tale, an affectionate dog named Mistletoe wakes St. Nick just in time to deliver his sleigh full of presents.
Author Richard A. Wolf is a Madison resident and a retired speech and language pathologist who worked for over 40 years as a professional educator and more than a decade in the Madison public school system (1969-1983). He originally created Mistletoe in 1991 as a lesson plan in visualization for his kindergarten and first grade students. In fact for years, the story didn’t have illustrations, and Wolf purposely didn’t describe the dog and the cat featured in the story.
While reading to the children, he asked them to paint a mental picture in their heads of the animal characters, and many times it was a description of their very own pets. “Visualization and vocabulary development are two critical skills for kids. Visualization helps kids remember because they get mental images in their heads. ” After sharing his story for numerous years with different aged students, Wolf’s coworkers encouraged him to find a publisher for the book, but the story needed one last finishing touch.
Wolf realized that illustrations were necessary to bring his story to life for a larger, more public audience. He met Danielle Schmitt of North Branford, an artist and teacher, while working at Joseph Melillo Middle School in East Haven, and asked if she would consider creating the artwork for Mistletoe, to which she happily agreed.
Wolf really appreciated the fact that Schmitt was research-oriented in her approach to illustrating the main characters. For example, Wolf modeled the dog and cat in the book on real life animals in his family, and Schmitt was very careful to identify their exact breed and paint them accordingly. As far as the setting, while Wolf doesn’t specifically mention Madison, local readers will delight in the beautifully detailed painting of Tuxis Island.
Mistletoe tells the story of a tired, weak dog that Santa finds under his sleigh as he is returning to the North Pole from a day at the mall. Santa arrives home with the sickly pup where he is nursed back to health and named Mistletoe because of his affectionate nature. Trouble brews when Santa’s jealous cat, Purrfect, resents all the attention Mistletoe gets and causes him to be locked away in a cage. When an exhausted Santa falls asleep just past midnight, the reader wonders if Mistletoe will escape to wake him in time to deliver Christmas presents.
Wolf says, “The beauty of this book is that it’s seasonal, and I hope that the story spreads over the years.” Currently, readers will find “Mistletoe” on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites, or e-readers can easily download it onto their Kindle and Nook.
In addition to Mistletoe, Wolf has written the text for two other children’s books that he is hoping to have published. “The Seven Headed Dragon” which tackles the topic of bullying, and “Cam on the Lam” which is designed to teach opposites. Besides children’s books, Wolf has created a musical based upon the Rafael Sabatini book, “Captain Blood,” acting as both playwright and lyricist.
Excited to finally share the story of Mistletoe outside of the classroom, Wolf successfully combines his passion for teaching children the love of language, the strength of listening and the power of imagination with a sweet and engaging tale, “for everyone who still believes.”