Thursday, April 28, 2011

Flip, Flap, Fly without the moms

Book: Flip, Flap, Fly! by Phyllis Root; Illustrated by David Walker
Puppets: Bird, Fish, Duck, Mouse, Child. (Otter and Snake optional)
Props: None
Presenters: One
Audience: Toddler Time (ones and twos)
Video:  How to Tell Flip, Flap, Fly! with Puppets

I thought this book would be great to tell with puppets from the first time I saw it. The rhyming story shows a baby animal getting helped by mom, then discovering the next baby animal in a repeated, patterned progression. But when I tried to work it out on a couple of separate occasions, I never could quite figure it out. It was just a little more complicated than I wanted it to be. Deep down I think I knew what I was going to have do all along, but didn’t want to admit it: The mothers had to go. I know, the whole theme of the book is mothers helping their babies, but…what if it was just babies discovering things on their own? You could still get the surprise of seeing each new rhymed animal. And you could still have the nursery rhyme-ish rhythm of the text. And the puppet management would be so much easier. So….sorry about that moms.

Once those mothers were gone, things went much smoother. This line: “'Fly!' cheeps the baby bird. / 'Way up high!' / So the mama helps the baby bird / flip flap fly..." becomes: ““'Fly!' cheeps the baby bird. / 'Way up high!' / And off goes the baby bird / flip flap fly..." And it all comes together. Puppet bird flies around for that first bit, continuing through: “In the blue blue sky / where the wind blows whish / ‘Look!’ cheeps the baby bird, / ‘I see a…fish!” And with the last two lines, baby bird is peeking into the puppet bag, and out pops the fish puppet. Very satisfying.

The same pattern continues with equally good rhyming interactions for fish, duck, and mouse, and the last of the series is a baby child, who sees “babies everywhere!” to wrap things up nicely.  I skipped the verses about otter and snake. I don’t have an otter puppet and my snake is either too scary or too fascinating for this age…but also four animals plus the child is just about the right length and keeps it simple enough for the storyteller.

I did still feel a bit guilty about leaving the mothers out, so I tried to provide context in the introduction when I showed the book: “This is a great book about moms who help their baby animals learn new things. I’m going to tell it with puppets and change it a bit:  and we’ll see if the baby animals can discover new things even without their mothers.” And of course I hope the puppet presentation will lead families to check out the book.

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