Sunday, October 23, 2011

Snake and a Bottle

Book: Crictor  by Tomi UngererPuppet:   Snake
Props:   Long box, baby bottle, pacifier, scarf, leash, police hat, medal
Presenters: One or Two
Audience: Family Storytime

Crictor was a favorite book of mine (and of my mom) when I was a kid.  I even had a big stuffed snake that I named “Crictor.”  I think I got it when I was ten and supposedly too old for such things but I think because it was a snake, rather than a bunny for instance, it was okay.  That snake is either gone or in a box somewhere in my garage, and if it is there it must look pretty ragged.  But I do have a cool boa constrictor snake puppet and some props to go with it.  Terri and I acted out the story for Family Storytime, with me narrating and her as Madame Bodot. 

We stuffed Crictor into a long cardboard box (used for butcher paper rolls) and Terri slowly pulled him out, little by little, tail first, to start the story (in the book he comes in a round box, and when I first saw this story told by Bonnie Janssen of Alameda County Library, she had a box just like it!).  We demonstrated several, but not all, of the ways Madame Bodot interacts with Crictor in the book, and each one was fun for the kids.  Feeding him with a baby bottle is very funny.  We added a binky and a burp.  Terri dressed him in a very long scarf.   Then hooked a leash on his neck and bounced him along for a walk. 

When Madame Bodot uses Crictor to teach her students, Terri addressed the audience as if they were the school children and asked them to identify the letters while I formed the snake into them.  A stuffed or puppet snake isn’t as manageable as a drawn one, so we stuck to the simplest figures:  O, L, and U (squiggly, but close enough). 1, 0, and 7.  For the playground scene, we had a child come up and “jump rope” using Crictor (which for a preschooler means the snake is still on the floor while she jumps over it).  Crictor as a slide doesn't work with the puppet, so we pass on that one.

We toned down the climax, where Crictor captures a home-invading robber.  Instead we just had Madame Bodot walking home with the snake, while I came up from behind as if to steal her purse.  Crictor promptly wraps himself around me and we had a child pre-coached with a police hat to come and haul me away.  Crictor, of course is awarded a medal and lives a long and happy life. 

I liked the way the story is gentle and clever and unusual, and it all holds together so well.  There’s something very casual about the presentation that we sometimes don’t get in our efforts to be wildly entertaining.  I mean, it’s still entertaining, just in a different way.   And Tomi Ungerer’s words and pictures are always worth sharing with kids.  In fact, as much as I love it, Crictor is only my second favorite Ungerer…now I just have to think of a way to do The Three Robbers. 

[* * * Blog error note:   Apologies to anyone who checks this blog looking for storytime stuff and occasionally finds a soul music video link, like earlier this week.  Just to clarify, we most definitely did not perform “Function at the Junction” by Shorty Long during Family Storytime.  That’s my other blog, a countdown of the top 1,000 soul songs of the 60’s and 70’s, and when I post a new video I sometimes embed it into the wrong blog by mistake.  Probably one of these days I’ll do the opposite and Mo Willems will wind up on that countdown in between Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding….]

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