Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Projected Painting Elephants

Story: Elephants Can Paint Too by Katya Arnold
Equipment: Scanner / Projector
Presenters: One
Audience: 3-6 year olds mostly

Since our audience is usually too big to see pictures from the book, we often scan and project illustrations, along with the usual acting out and puppetry. For our recent "Elephants" theme I shared Elephants Can Paint Too this way. Our storytimes are very performance oriented with lots of action and humor, but it's nice when we can mix in the occasional quiet, thoughtful, or just different book. This is a photo essay about Arnold's experience teaching elephants to paint in Thailand. The book is cleverly built around the contrast between her human students and her elephant ones. So "some students live in the city" is accompanied by a photo of a New York City school. And "some students live in the jungle" shows an elephant marching through the jungle. The book is a great example of creative non-fiction for young children, with well chosen photographs and a strong storytelling approach.

Scanning and projecting lets us play with the child/elephant contrast a little more directly. As narrator, you can time your words and your "clicks" with the remote to maximize the interplay of text and pictures. With the words "Some students use their hands," I click that image just as I start the sentence. But then I slow down and draw it out a bit: "....and some students paint with their [click] trunks!" The medium allows you to pace the telling in a way I don't think you can quite match with a book. I'm not suggesting it's better, just different, and I'm interested in exploring the possibilities as we do more of this.

Arnold does a neat job of guiding readers through the book, using large print to convey the basics and smaller print to add details. As a teller I stuck mostly with the large print, paraphrasing on occasion. I chose two of the more detailed bits that I felt were essential: That elephants don't really try to paint flowers, but sometimes the colors and lines they paint look like things we recognize. And I shared the part about why Arnold teaches elephants.
As a little bonus, after the book was over I added a few slides from the web of our local painting elephant, Rama, who lives at the Oregon Zoo and has his work on display there. Our "Elephants" theme also included Watch Me Throw the Ball by Mo Willems and bits from Babar's Yoga for Elephants by Laurent de Brunhoff...details in separate posts.

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