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Hot gifts for Christmas

November 21, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

The children have made their lists.
The moms are checking them more than twice.
They're trying to find out
Who's got what and at what price.

The two Hagerstown moms brought their children's Christmas wish lists to Valley Mall on Veterans Day to see what was available.

"Halo 2," "Ghost Recon 2" and "Need for Speed: Underground 2" were among the items 16-year-old Dustin McSherry was asking for, said his mother, Donna Spickler.

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"Tony Hawk's Underground 2," an Element hoodie and CDs by Jimmy Eat World, Seether and Smile Empty Soul were on 13-year-old Adam Branch's list, said his mother, Patsy Branch.

"I don't know if dad approves them yet," Branch said of her son's musical preferences.

While sisters Spickler and Branch agreed they wanted jewelry for Christmas, their concerns on Veterans Day were tracking down video games and compact discs with names they didn't recognize.

This year's hot Christmas gifts include some of the items the sisters mentioned as well as young adult books, popular movies and new toys such as plugin play classic arcade games, mall merchants said.

A lot of people are asking for the new Xbox game "Halo 2," a first-person shooter in which the player sees what the character sees.

"It's futuristic. Lot of shooting. Lot of action. What every kid wants," said Paul Banzhoff, sales associate at EB Games.

"Halo 2," "Tony Hawk's Underground 2" and "Grand Theft Auto San Andreas" are popular gift ideas and each cost $49.99, Banzhoff said.

Nintendo GameCubes ($99.99) usually are popular for Christmas and the hand-held dual-screened Nintendo DS ($149.99) comes out today, Banzhoff said.

The video games were among a number of items mall merchants said that younger and older customers enjoy.

Some of the intermediate, young adult books are so well written that adults are reading them, too, said Karen Cook, assistant manager of Waldenbooks.

They include Cornelia Funke's "Dragon Rider" and Brittney Ryan's "The Legend of Holly Claus," Cook said.

James Patterson has a new Alex Cross book out, "London Bridges," and the illustrated edition of "The Da Vinci Code" is out, Cook said.

"A Series of Unfortunate Events" by Lemony Snicket continues to be popular with the movie, starring Jim Carrey, coming out soon, Cook said.

On Veterans Day, the bookstore was sold out of "Egyptology," a follow-up to "Dragonology," Cook said. Like its predecessor, "Egyptology" is written like a journal and features maps. It is part fiction and part nonfiction with information about the pyramids, mummies and kings, Cook said.

"Spider-Man 2," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" are popular this holiday season, said Jason Shrader, manager of Suncoast Motion Picture Co.

TV and movie box sets also do well at Christmastime, Shrader said.

TV box sets include "The Simpsons," "Friends," "MASH" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and movie box sets include "The Godfather" trilogy.

At Hot Topic, the hot items were "The Nightmare Before Christmas" merchandise featuring the character Jack Skellington, "Invader Zim" action figures and band hoodies, said assistant manager Shelly Metz and keyholder Ryan Hendershot.

The hot Hallmark ornaments this year are Herbie the Love Bug and the Cookie Doe ornament made of tiny kitchen utensils to look like a reindeer, said Sandy Wilgus, manager of John's Hallmark.

"The Polar Express" book and Hallmark's Polar Express table decoration, with a train on tracks circling a Christmas tree and village, are popular with the movie out, Wilgus and Cook said.

Wendy Heffner, manager of KB Toys, expects various plugin play games to be popular.

They include a Paintball game for $49.99 and various classic Atari and classic arcade games for $19.99.

For example, Jakks Pacific Inc. has a plugin play game featuring five classic arcade games such as "Ms. Pac-Man," "Galaga" and "Pole Position." The game system is built into the joystick that gets plugged into a television.

Also popular are LuvCubs and Snugeez, Heffner said.

LuvCubs are teddy bears with sensors so they react to touch. Tickle the bottom of the bear's foot and it laughs.

Snugeez are soft, squeezable, brightly colored stuffed animals such as snakes, caterpillars, turtles and frogs.

VideoNow, a personal video player that was popular last year, has a color version this year, Heffner said. VideoNow plays discs with entertainment such as Nickelodeon cartoons.

The new Buzz Lightyear Space Rescue ($24.50) and Princess dolls are popular at The Disney Store, lead cast member Becky Grayson said.

Spickler also was shopping for two young ladies.

Her stepdaughter, Mandi Spickler, 17, asked for dollhouse Grappa jeans from Gadzooks and an Ecko hoodie.

"She's an all name-brand kid," Spickler said.

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