Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hide and Seek, Morris and Boris style

Story: “The Game” from Morris and Boris: Three Stories by Bernard Wiseman
Puppets: Moose and Bear, though any pair will do
Props: None
Presenters: One
Audience: Preschool, Family Storytime
Link to "Storytelling with Puppets" video demo

The Morris and Boris stories by Bernard Wiseman are almost as good as “Frog and Toad” for telling with puppets. Similar, since both feature a pair of friends, one a little brighter than the other; but different since Morris and Boris are more slapstick and exaggerated. “The Story” is a very simple one to tell, but always well received. Boris asks Morris if he wants to play a game and Morris doesn’t know what a game is. They end up playing hide and seek and Morris doesn’t really get it. In the book there are many one liners that show how clueless Morris is…I sometimes include these but sometimes not, depending on how deeply I feel like going into pure silliness. The hide and seek game is the main piece, so I don’t want to get too hung up on wordplay and jokes. Our library no longer owns the book, which is out of print, so I’m not ever sure which bits I’ve added or changed. But even with some trimming, the story is just filled with surefire-laugh-out-loud-preschooler-moments. 7 of these are noted in brackets:

Morris says he can’t be It because he can’t count to ten. To prove it he tries: “1, 2, 3, 7, 12, 99, 4, 8…” [1] Very funny to a three year old. I tend to soften Boris a bit from his fairly grumpy self in the book, so I’ll have him say: “you’re right, you haven’t learned to count to ten yet, but you will.” Plus that makes me feel like I’m not making any listeners who can’t count to ten yet feel bad, which I’m sure is me being way too oversensitive, but it just feels better that way.

Boris covers his eyes and counts to ten while Morris hides. This is a chance for some fun puppet play. Morris goes under your leg, then pops out, looks up, down, tries behind your back, wherever [2]…then finds a spot just at 10. The kids love watching this. As soon as Boris says “ready or not, here I come,” Morris pops out and says “I’m ready!” A Boris double-take, looking at Morris, the audience, then back at Morris, is a great way to show his surprise and impatience. [3] Boris tells Morris to keep quiet next time, counts to ten again, Morris does his frantic search for a spot, then settles behind something (leg, bag, whatever) with his antlers sticking way out. [4] Another double-take from Boris as he spots the antlers. Then Morris’ reaction: “but I didn’t make any noise, how did you find me?” [5]

For the final act, Morris tries being It, and since he can’t count to ten he sings a song: “Oh give me a home / where the buffalo roam / and the moose and the grumpy bear play / a game called hide and seek / and I better not peek / or Boris will yell at me all day.” [6] Or whatever you want to make up. Then Morris takes a quick look for Boris (“not here…not there…”) and says he’s going home, so Boris jumps out. “I found you!” says Morris [7] and kids totally get the trick he just played.

If I have time I sometimes extend this by having them try another game: “catch.” (which adds another five surefire-laugh-out-loud-preschooler-moments to the total). Morris says he has a ball, but gets one that’s too big, like a beach ball. [8] He throws it at Boris and it flattens him. [9] Boris picks it up to get even, but it’s too heavy so he drops it on his own head and gets flattened again.

[10] They finally get the right size, play catch for a while, the Morris throws a high one that bops Boris on the head (yes, it flattens him). [11] Boris throws it back hard at Morris to get even, but Morris ducks (“Missed me, missed me, now you gotta kiss me!”) [12] So basically, lots of playground-ish pranks that are right at the level of preschoolers.

The story also works well as a puppet show with a stage, where the hide and seek bit can be played out even more. My two other favorite Morris and Boris stories to tell with puppets are Morris Has a Cold and “Morris is a Baby-sitter” (from Morris is a Cowboy, a Policeman, and a Baby Sitter (published 51 years ago!)). Also hard to track down, but worth it. And if you don’t have a moose and/or a bear, it’s fine to substitute others (and still let the audience know where the original story comes from of course).

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