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BOOKS : Publication Tells How to Get Something for Almost Nothing : The "Freebies" paperback lists a variety of things that can be sent away for through the mail.

September 23, 1993|JANE HULSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

There's nothing quite like the sweet satisfaction of getting something--anything--for free.

That's the theory behind a book, "The Official Freebies for Kids," published this year by a Carpinteria-based company. It's a paperback crammed with more than 100 things that kids and parents can send away for through the mail.

The stuff includes stamps, stickers, sports cards, magazines, crafts, playing cards, earrings, ponytail holders, cookie recipes, magnets, pencils, seed packets and other little doodads.

The book cover says, "Something for Nothing or Next to Nothing," so don't expect everything to be free. In fact, most of the items require up to $1 to $2 in postage and handling. The absolutely free deals are in the minority.

"Years ago when the economy was better, people gave the stuff away," said Harry Short, publisher of "Freebies--The Magazine With Something for Nothing," also based in Carpinteria.

The magazine, published since 1977, is also devoted to free or low-cost deals that don't exceed $2. This year was the first time that the company attempted a book targeted for kids, along with two others designed for parents and teachers.

The book has some good deals to make it worth the purchase price of $4.95, but some items don't really sound any cheaper than what you might find in a local store.

Many are intriguing, though, and will appeal to bargain hunters. Take the solar-powered hotdog cooker. For a stamped, self-addressed envelope and 25 cents, kids can write to the Energy & Marine Center in Port Richey, Fla., and get instructions for the cardboard and aluminum foil cooker. It's a "cool science fair project," the book says.

Or, they can send $1 to the Whale Adoption Project in Massachusetts and get a huge folder full of information about whales. They can get a free copy of "Model Railroading Magazine." For $2, they can get a deck of wacky playing cards shaped like the letter S. A book of jump rope rhymes costs $1 plus an envelope with two stamps.

And others: an inflatable three-foot dolphin for $2, a five-inch harmonica for $2, snowflake stationery for $1, a book of travel activities for $1.50 and an alphabet bracelet kit for $2.

For little sports buffs, the book has the addresses of sports teams so kids can send away for "fan packages" containing stickers, photos and club information.

"Freebies for Families" ($8.95) is bigger and also has some interesting deals for kids and parents: glow-in-the-dark star and planet stickers for $1, a booklet of last-minute Halloween costume ideas for $2, kids identification wristbands for $1, and the mailing addresses of 20 celebrities, including Macaulay Culkin, Madonna and Miss Piggy, all for a self-addressed stamped envelope.

The "Freebies" books are available through the Ventura Bookstore, Adventures for Kids in Ventura and through the publisher, Lowell House, 2029 Century Park East, Suite 3290, Los Angeles 90067.

There are some other books out there with free and nearly free offers for kids. One available at many bookstores is "Free Stuff for Kids" ($5), published by Meadowbrook Press in Deephaven, Minn.

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Recreation departments throughout the county are heading into a new season of classes. It's not too late to sign up for some. Here are a couple that sound interesting:

In Moorpark, kids can take a "performance skills" class to help them feel more comfortable speaking in class or even getting up on the stage. Taught by Dee Susmark, the class uses such techniques as charades to help kids lose their self-consciousness. The weekly class runs Oct. 8 through Nov. 12 and costs $35.

Susmark also teaches a "creative expression workshop" for kids who want to create their own dramatic presentation, which would ultimately be taped for showing on Moorpark's public access television channel. She provides a four-week class for younger kids beginning Oct. 2 and costing $30; she has a more intense 12-week class for pre-teens starting Oct. 4 and costing $75. For information, call 529-6864.

The Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District is offering weekly computer classes for kids 5 to 12 years of age. The four-week series, which begins Oct. 5, is designed to teach keyboarding skills, word processing and desktop publishing. Cost is $49. For information, call 584-4400.

Kids 9 years and older can pick up some magic tricks from professional magician Ted Wakai in a weekly class offered by Ventura's recreation department. The class begins Sept. 29 and costs $35. For information, call 658-4726.

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