VALLEY WEEKEND : KIDS : Santa Book Delivers a Message of Yule Giving : Roy A. Jones Sr. will give a reading Saturday. For those on a budget, used titles entertain as well as the new.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

With Christmas drawing near and Hanukkah arriving soon, there's no more postponing thoughts about gift giving. But in case you are worried about a long list and a short cash supply, keep in mind the saying, "You don't have to be rich to be generous."

Such is the message of a children's book, 'Santa's Missing Stocking" ($8.95 from Northwest Publishing), by Roy A. Jones Sr., which the author will read and sign at Bookstar in Studio City on Saturday.

The book, intended for younger readers, is about a little girl who gives Santa the idea of putting a stocking on the mantle of the home of each good child. In the Jones tale, the girl is quite poor, practically homeless, when she finds a missing article of the polar philanthropist's wardrobe, and goes to a lot of trouble to return it to him. Everything turns out well because Santa is grateful for what she's done.

Jones, an elementary school teacher from Ontario, will be reading his story at Bookstar, 12136 Ventura Blvd., at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The event is free.

When he first told the tale a few years ago, he said, it was an extemporaneous response to his class demanding "Tell us a story." His goal at the time, he said, was to make up a story that would help the kids think about being generous, not just greedy, during the holiday season.

Using every narrative trick he ever heard or thought of, he "had them leaning forward during the story and applauding at the end," he said.

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Northwest decided to publish the book, and Jones began giving readings in his community.

"On a scale of 1 to 10, the story's a 10--and would make a great TV special," enthused Joanna Hamilton, owner of Joanna's Bookworm, a store in Upland where Jones gave a presentation this fall. "We're going to put him on a float in the local holiday parade. The last time we did this, it was Ray Bradbury."

Her point, of course, and the reason for the presentation, is to remind folks that books make good holiday gifts. They offer good value for the money, and a book rarely goes out of style. Most hardback illustrated children's books cost about $20, and paperbacks can run anywhere from $3.50 to $12, depending on the size of the book and the number of illustrations.

For parents who are strapped for cash, used-book stores sell a wide range of children's books--from the classics to fairly recent bestsellers--for under $5.

Anyone interested in finding out the most popular titles--new or classic--for a particular junior member of your family or for a young friend, might consider calling your library's children's desk. Or call your local bookstore and ask which titles are popular this season.

You can be hip and still keep some cash in your pocket simply by asking for titles that have been given the Caldecott Honor or Newbury Award Medal. These awards represent the gold standard of children's literature, whether the book is new or used. Old gold is still gold.

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DETAILS

* WHAT: Holiday story time for kids, featuring Southern California author Roy A. Jones Sr. reading from his new book "Santa's Missing Stocking."

* WHERE: Bookstar, 12136 Ventura Blvd., Studio City.

* WHEN: 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

* HOW MUCH: Free.

* CALL: (818) 505-9528.

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