Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Sleepy Sheep

Book:  No Sleep for the Sheep  by Karen Beaumont, Illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic
Puppets:  Sheep, Rooster, plus three or four farm animals (but skip the goat)
Props:  None
Presenters:  One
Audience:   Toddler Time  (ones and twos), Preschoolers
Video:  How to Tell No Sleep for the Sheep with Puppets

I’m not doing as well at spotting brand new puppetry-ready Picturebooks as I used to, so I’m always glad to get suggestions from others.  Diana Stubee of Multnomah County Library told me about this one and she was right:  just right for puppets.

It’s a rhyming book, but the refrains are repeated and easy to memorize:  “A sheep fell asleep in the big red barn, in the big red barn by the farm.  Then there came a loud QUACK, at the door, at the door, and the Sheep couldn’t sleep any more.”  [Duck is still unseen in the bag, when the “quack” happens.  Then it’s:]  “’Go to sleep!’” said theSsheep to the……[hesitate, look down at the bag, Duck pops out] duck at the door. ‘And please don’t QUACK any more!’  Soon the Duck and the Sheep fell fast asleep in the big red barn on the farm.”

At that point both animals lie down, Sheep stays on one hand, while I put Duck off to the side (or in another bag).  Then the refrain starts again:  “Then there came a loud OINK at the door, at the door….”  And this time Pig pops out.

The rhyming, rhythmic language really makes this story work. I especially like the repetition (“at the door, at the door”) that really catches the ear.  So I stick to the author’s very well-chosen words.   The anticipation for the next animal, cued by the sound, is just at the right level for two year olds.    I do I skip Goat, though, as I often do with puppets…having a goat and a sheep in the same story is just too confusing:  one says “Maa,” one says “Baa,” but really, aren’t those basically the same sound?  The story is fun enough for 3 to 5 year olds too, especially if you give Sheep some personality in her voice, making her gradually more and more stressed with each animal.  The puppet handling is straightforward, since Sheep just stays on one hand and the other animals don’t need to do much more than Pop Out. 

The conclusion works very nicely,* with Rooster going “Cock-a-doodle-doo!  Wake up, all of you!  Hey Sheep!  That means you, too!”  But of course Sheep has been awake all night thanks to his visitors, so:  “the Sheep slept right on through…through the neighs and the moos and the cock-a-doodle-doos in the big red barn on the farm.”  

* The conclusion does work nicely if you remember it.  At Toddler Time this week I was so pleased with myself for getting the main refrain right….I didn’t even need to write it down!  What I did need to write down, though, was that last bit with the Rooster, and I forgot to.  So when I got to this point, all I could do was come clean with the audience:  “You know, I actually forgot how this last part goes.  So I’m going to take a quick look at the book here.”   Calm and smiling on the outside, frantic inside, I slip off the puppets, grab the book, rifle through to the last pages, silently curse myself for not taking the time to write a few lines on a 3 x 5 card, put puppets back on, and finish story.  Fortunately, 1 and 2 year olds aren’t highly critical, and parents and caregivers are polite.  And truthfully  storytime mistakes can be seen as just an opportunity to show parents that you don’t have to be perfect and polished when you share stories with kids…as long as they’re only once in a while and you treat them lightly.  At least this is what I tell myself anyway.  And even if it's true, I wouldn't mind "modeling mistakes" a little less frequently....

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