Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lizard, Bear, and Funny Songs

Book: Lizard's Song by George Shannon, Illustrated by Jose Aruego & Ariane Dewey
Puppets: Lizard, Bear, Duck, Rabbit (or any two substitutes for duck & rabbit)
Props: Rock (optional)
Presenters: One
Audience: Preschool, School-Age
Video:  How to Tell with Puppets

I visited a summer daycamp last week that was studying “rocks” and wanted a puppet story or two. I don’t actually own any puppet rocks, but realized that two of my favorites each feature a rock, so they worked fine for the tie-in: Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock which I'll feature soon,and George Shannon’s Lizard’s Song which I'll do now: In this book, Lizard sings a song when he’s happy: “Zoli, zoli, zoli – zoli zoli zoli / Rock is my home – rock is my home…” Musical notation is in the back of the book, but since that means nothing to me I just make up my own little tune/chant...and it's pretty catchy. Lizard teaches the song to Bear, but Bear meets other animals and forgets it each time.

I add a couple of things for my puppet version. I give each of the animals Bear meets their own song, patterned after Lizard’s. So Duck sings “Quacky quacky quacky – quacky quacky quacky / Pond is my home – pond is my home…” And instead of having Bear just forget Lizard’s song, like he does in the book, I have him try to sing it, but get it mixed up with the song he just heard: “Zoli, zoli, quacky – quacky quacky zoli / Rock is my pond – pond is my rock.” This is pretty funny. And even funnier if Bear reacts after each mistake: “Zoli zoli quacky [Oh no!] – quacky quacky zoli [That’s not right] / Rock is my pond [son of a *#@&!].…” and so on (but just kidding about the swear words). My Bear puppet has arms you can move, so I’ll have him scratch his ear at the first mistake, cover his face with the second, and slap his head with the third. Those visual reactions are even funnier than the verbal piece.

In the very pleasing conclusion, Lizard teaches Bear his own song, so he won’t ever forget it: “Zoli zoli zoli…/ Den is my home.” I make one more change there, adding a different sound for Bear’s song instead of “zoli,” to extend the pattern from the other animals’ songs. So it's: “Rumble, rumble, rumble – rumble rumble rumble / den is my home, den is my home….”

Besides the songs and the humor, the characters have distinct personalities, so you can have fun with voices and the interactions between Lizard (happy and kind) and Bear (a bit pushy, kind of dopey, but nice in the end). As for the other animals, any will do….just use the sound they make and the place they live for the song.

For puppet-handling, when Bear leaves Lizard I take Lizard off and put him on a rock on a table, so then I can handle Bear and whoever he meets. I end up switching Bear from right hand to left hand a few times. He’s on my right hand when he meets Lizard. When he leaves Lizard to return to his den, I switch him to my left hand, heading right. He meets an animal, mixes up the song, and then heads back to Lizard, so I switch him to my right hand, moving left. It may sound like a lot of trouble, but it’s pretty intuitive and I think it makes the story flow smoother. Also, when Lizard first sings the song he does a simple little dance…moving up or down or side to side. So when the others sing, they should dance a bit too. So this isn't the simplest of stories to tell with puppets, but with a few run throughs to get the switches and actions worked out, it works really well.

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