The Bookworm: Kim Fields and kids' Christmas books

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“Blessed Life”

By Kim Fields with Todd Gold

c. 2017, Faith Words

$22, $26.50 Canada; 215 pages

You have much to be thankful for this year. There’s a roof over your head, for beginners. You know where your next meal will come from. You can read, obviously. Running water, electricity, friends, and family, the list goes on. Author Kim Fields (with Todd Gold) counts those happy things, too, and in her new book “Blessed Life,” she knows who gets credit.

Born in Harlem with a pedigree in performing – her grandmother was a dancer; her mother, an actress -- Kim Fields recalls how much she loved Harlem, but she says she “would not trade growing up in Hollywood,” which is where she moved with her mother when Fields was 6.

“Blessed Life” by Kim Fields with Todd Gold.

At age 8, as her mother’s L.A. star was on the rise, Fields tried out for her first role in a TV ad, later appearing in other commercials. She met Janet Jackson and they often played together, a friendship that led Fields to an appearance on “Good Times,” as a friend of Jackson ’s character.

Shortly after that first quick appearance, Fields was hired for a new “Diff’rent Strokes” spin-off television show, in part because she could roller skate. The show wasn’t a hit with audiences at first, but NBC had faith in “The Facts of Life.”

“Going through puberty on television was not fun,” says Fields but she “handled” things. It helped that her mother kept her grounded; finding a church and connecting with God at age 14 also made a difference.

“Blessed Life” author and actress Kim Fields.

Those things helped Fields during her trials and lifted her higher when things were good. Friends helped her search for love, introducing her to men and offering support when love went wrong. Professionally, work came and went in large roles and small projects. Fields went to college, worked behind-the-scenes in the film industry, fell in love, and got married. When that relationship fell apart, she became depressed and stayed in bed for weeks, asking God if he “still got a plan, right?”

He did.  It involved a new love, a family, more work, new focus, and maturity.

“What I’ve come to terms with,” says Fields, “is that as long as I’m moving forward … I’m winning at least half the battle.”

“Blessed Life” is a bit of fresh air in the star-biography genre.

While so many H’wood memoirs get oversaturated with chummy shouts of Look-Who-I-Know, author Kim Fields’ ubiquitous (in star bios) name-dropping feels incidental and totally natural here. Fields (with Todd Gold) doesn’t seem to be reaching to impress anyone; rather, her anecdotes are breezy and fun and pretty matter-of-fact, but she’s also open to laying out the ups and downs of being a child-star, grown up. Even that is told simply, but with just a little embellishment and a lot of gratitude.

Overall, we take the good, we take the bad, and we get a sense that the best aspects of Fields’ TV characters reflected the best of her, too. Most happily, this peek at stardom isn’t heavy on the drama and for that, reading “Blessed Life” is something to be thankful for.

Kids Christmas books

By various authors and illustrators

“Santa Calls,” c.1993; the others, c.2017  

Various prices and page counts

You’d better watch out. You’d better not cry. Your child knows exactly what comes next, you can bet on it. You can also bet that he’s not about to take anything Santa-related lightly, so why not bring Santa home in a book this holiday season? Try one of these new stories, meant exactly for kids who love read-aloud time:

The little one who needs speed and craves all things automotive will want you to find “The 12 Sleighs of Christmas” by Sherry Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Jake Parker again and again. It’s the tale of a (gulp!) busted-up sleigh, discovered to be in bad shape with just days to go before the Big Guy takes off. So maybe it’s time for an upgrade up North? The results will have your 3-to-7-year-old motor head revving his engine for the holidays ...

Kids holiday books by various authors and illustrators.

Kids generally see Santa in a serious vein, but for the child who likes her holiday with a dose of humor, “Missile Toe: A Very Confused Christmas” by Devin Scillian, illustrated by Marty Kelley is a great book to have around this season. Through silly poems and pictures, your child will get a chance to laugh at Christmas carol parodies and beloved holiday must-haves. No, it’s not disrespectful – it’s hilarious, and elementary-school kids will eat it up.

For slightly older kids (ages 8-to-12, perhaps) who can sit still for a bit longer and who can appreciate beautiful artwork, “Santa Calls” by William Joyce will become an instant classic.

Originally published more than 20 years ago but reintroduced now, this is an interactive book about a young boy who gets a call from the North Pole. Who wouldn’t take Santa up on an invitation to the workshop?  And so Art Atchinson Aimesworth, his sister, and his best friend head north on an adventure that takes them – and your child – through a fantasy like no other, past guards, “Dark Elves,” and fanciful things that few kids ever get to see. Set at the turn of the last century, this book has an old feel that new audiences will absolutely love.

And finally, there’s no better Christmas Eve bedtime book to read aloud than “Good Night, Reindeer” by Denise Brennan-Nelson, illustrated by Marco Bucci. With quiet nighttime pictures in lush twilight colors and sparse, spare words that signify bedtime, this book will make any little one as sleepy as possible the night before the Big Morning. Here, Santa bids “Good Night” to each of his reindeer, as well as to the things in the workshop, thus making sure everyone gets a good nights’ sleep (including your little one). As the tale progresses, your 2-to-6-year-old will get a charming peek into the personalities of eight tiny sleigh-engines, which is adorable, and which sets the tone perfectly.

If these books don’t quite fill the bill for your holiday, then ho-ho-hook up with your local bookseller or librarian.  There are lots and lots of books for children of every age, every faith, and every holiday.

As for these four, above, watch out for them.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.