Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Elephant and Piggie - Minimal Adaptation Required

Story: Watch Me Throw the Ball! by Mo Willems
Props: Elephant stuff (such as a nose and ears), Piggie stuff (nose, tail, or similar), a ball
Presenters: two
Audience: 3-6 mostly

I'm not sure I can choose which of Mo Willems' creations is my favorite...he's just too good at picture books. The Pigeon and Knuffle Bunny books should be enough genius for one person, and then along comes City Dog, Country Frog....amazing. But when it comes to adapting for larger crowds without the book, you can't beat Elephant and Piggie. At a recent Family Storytime, Brad and I acted out Watch Me Throw the Ball. You'd think that with an early reader and controlled vocabulary you would want to adapt pretty freely for storytelling, but in this case we pretty much used Willems words straight through. They're that good. You're supposed to repeat words in a book like this, so the new reader can get familiar with them. And he does that, but somehow makes that repetition part of character development. Like when Elephant says "It takes skill. It takes practice. It takes skill and practice." Good for new readers, great for a story teller trying to convey Elephant's personality (a little full of himself).

So anyway, our script was pretty much straight from the book. And the acting out was easy. I had an elephant nose and felt ears; Brad had a pig nose and a spiraly thing he found somewhere in our props for a tail. The dialog between the two, with their personalities so clearly different, works well. The big joke, when Piggie throws the ball (after a funny spinning wind-up) and it lands behind him, stretches out perfectly as a performance sequence: Piggie doesn't see the ball behind him, while the audience and Elephant do, and the dialog of the book leads us neatly through Piggie's initial excitement ("Call me Super Pig"), then denial ("I threw it around the world"), then happy acceptance ("I had fun"). When Piggie exits and Elephant thinks about it, then throws the ball backwards too, Piggie style, it's a fine ending.

I think there's something about the Early Reader format that can work really well for puppetry or acting out. Lobel's "Frog and Toad" books and Wiseman's "Morris and Boris" series are two others that have numerous stories that adapt naturally to use without the book, because they feature dialogue, humor, and personailities....I've done several of each over the years in various ways. But this was my first "Elephant and Piggie" and I look forward to trying more.

This was part of our "Elephants" Family Storytime. We also did a version of Elephants Can Paint Too by Katya Arnold and a bit from Babar's Yoga for Elephants...details in separate posts.

No comments:

Post a Comment