So the seasonal blues aren't confined to the Whos -- and Christmas isn't the only holiday to suffer a Grinch. A grisly gang of goblins snuffs out the Festival of Lights in Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, a stage musical based on the award-winning children's book by Eric Kimmel. The kids of Curtain Call, the educational division of the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company, recount the story of the heroic Hershel of Ostropol, who saves a village from fiends set to wreak havoc on Hanukkah. Appropriate for audience members 3 and older, the play takes the stage at Phoenix College's John Paul Theatre, 1202 West Thomas. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins do battle at 7 p.m. Thursday, December 18, and Saturday, December 20, and at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Sunday, December 21. Visit www.azjewishtheatre.org or call 602-264-0402 to order tickets -- $10 for adults, $5 for children.- Jill Koch
Ted E. Bear hosts tea time
Since Thanksgiving, the Ritz-Carlton in Phoenix has been hosting tea time with Ted E. Bear -- a time for tots and grown-ups to sip tea and delight in holiday storytelling. Friday, December 19, through Sunday, December 21, jolly Old St. Nick will join the teddy bear tea extravaganza to cap off the pre-Christmas season. In addition to Santa's cameo, kids can enjoy a special tea menu, story time and puppet shows. Seating times are at noon and 3 p.m. in the Ritz-Carlton ballroom, 2401 East Camelback. Admission is $31 for adults and $24 for children under 12. Reservations are required; call 602-522-6644. - Ashlea Deahl
Hygiene on the High Plains
Illustrator signs book
This guy's got some dirty secrets -- like a doodlebug holed up in his right eyebrow, tumbleweed wedged in his chaps, and a stench that "stuck to passersby like mud splashed up from a wagon wheel." It's tough to stay clean on them dusty trails, and doesn't The Dirty Cowboy know it.
The earthy title character comes clean in Amy Timberlake's children's book, with illustrations by Phoenix native Adam Rex depicting the cowboy in all his grimy glory. Norman Rockwell meets Alfred E. Newman in Rex's renderings of the hygiene-challenged cowboy, and the artful placement of shrubs and critters conceals the most private parts of the character's annual bath.
Rex revisits the Valley at 1 p.m. this Sunday, December 21, to sign The Dirty Cowboy at Barnes & Noble Kierland, 7030 East Greenway Parkway in Scottsdale. Call the store at 480-948-8551 for more information. - Jill Koch
Santa wields star power
He's gone from polar to solar. St. Nick shoots for the stars at Peoria's Challenger Space Center, where Santa's Science Workshops introduce curious kids to the solar system. While rarely mistaken for Stephen Hawking, Santa's certainly schooled in the workings of the universe. After all, he orbits the earth every December without incident or aid from NASA. Who better to inspire scientific study?Scheduled for Saturday, December 20, and December 27, the workshops engage first- through sixth-graders in space stories and movies, science projects and team-building challenges. Participants can catch a ride to the "International Space Station" via the Earth Space Transit Module -- and may even catch a glimpse of the man in red.
Half-day sessions -- $30 for one, $45 for both -- run from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. at the Center, 21170 North 83rd Avenue. Pre-registration is required; call 623-322-2001.- Jill Koch
Pooh and the gang offer good lessons
Show us somebody who doesn't like Winnie the Pooh and friends, and we'll show you somebody about to have a black eye. Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, Piglet and the rest are timeless characters who don't so much inhabit our minds as they reflect our personalities. (When your shrink tells you you're bipolar, think of it as an Eeyore-Tigger axis.) Your kids need these sorts of psychoanalytical skills as well, so we suggest taking 'em down to A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail, performed by Valley Youth Theatre. The musical runs daily through Tuesday, December 23. Visit www.vyt.com for more information. - Brendan Joel Kelley
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Something's Gotta Give
All or nothing at PT
If the holidays are about both giving and giving up, then Jeff Brumbeau's book The Quiltmaker's Gift is the perfect holiday story, encompassing the ideas of generosity and sacrifice. The plot revolves around a woman who makes exquisite quilts and gives them to those who have nothing. When a king approaches her and demands one of her quilts, she demands that he give up everything in order to deserve one. In the stage adaptation of the tale, what happens next is in the hands of the Phoenix Theatre's Cookie Company, which performs the musical through Sunday, December 21. To make it a theatrical treat for kids and grown-ups alike, every show is followed by a cookie-and-milk reception. Tickets are $12 and $15. Call 602-254-2151 for more information.- Maidi Terry