Sunday, January 30, 2011

Little Fish, One Finger

Book: Blue Sea by Robert Kalan, illustrated by Donald Crews
Props, Puppets: nothing...just fingers
Presenters: One
Audience: Toddler Time (1 & 2 year olds)

After 25+ years of story times, I tend to get a little bored with fingerplays. I stick to my favorites mostly and feel like I’m not being creative, but really there just aren’t many that measure up to “Where is Thumbkin,” “Five Little Monkeys,” and the like. But I do love it when I can find a story that can be told with fingers. That way the kids get the physical activity they need, but at the same time, I still get to tell a story. One of my favorite finger stories is Blue Sea by Robert Kalan and Donald Crews. A perfect picture book, so I hope this version inspires kids to check it out.

You can show the kids how to move as you tell the story or introduce the pieces before as an introduction. Small Fish is your pinky. Big Fish is pointer plus thumb. Bigger Fish is four fingers plus thumb. And Biggest Fish is your whole arm, with your forearm moving up and down to make a closing mouth.

So you use the simple words directly from the story and motion out the chases with your fingers. And the kids do the same. Little Fish appears. Big Fish appears and chase them. Then you leave Big Fish there and your Little Fish hand now becomes Bigger Fish, who chases Big Fish. And so on.

Then each fish gets caught in a hole, which you (and the kids) also provide. Small Hole is a triangle made when you touch your hand to your shoulder. Each fish zips through it, but Biggest Fish can’t fit (and says: “Ouch!”). Smaller Hole is the biggest circle you can make with finger and thumb. Smallest Hole is a tiny hole with finger and thumb. In the end your left with just your pinky floating around and the words: “Little Fish. Blue sea. The end.”

It makes a great participatory story, and it also has strong early literacy elements. The patterned words exercise narrative skills. Pretty young kids catch the pattern right away, then are able to see how it reverses itself as the fish disappear. With very few words, it’s still excellent for vocabulary, introducing the comparative (er) and superlative (est) suffixes in a way that makes sense. And although adding motions seems to make it more complicated to learn, the motions of the story actually make it easier to remember, especially for kinetic learners who learn by doing. After it's over I'll sometimes encourage the parents to try retelling the story this way at home, since you really can learn it pretty completely just by doing it once.

Program Summary: Bug Tales

K-2 Program Summary: "Bug Tales"
We do a monthly program called “K-2 Book Adventures” that’s lots of fun to develop and present. Our goal is to get 5-8 year olds really excited about books and the library. We approach it sort of like a storytime for older kids, but try to mix it up a lot with a variety of presentation approaches. We have multiple copies of the featured books on hand and are glad to see most of them check out each time.

I’ll post details on individual stories separately, but will also do a quick rundown of the pieces of each program. We’ve only done four so far. "Bug Tales" was in January, with Sheila, Terri, and I (Steven) presenting for about 100 kids and 50 adults. The program ran about 45-50 minutes:

Diary of a Fly/Spider/Worm books by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss.
We scanned and projected illustrations from a couple of these books. Terri (as Spider) and Sheila (as Fly) read the words while I narrated. I introduced them by saying: "We can learn a lot about bugs from books, but wouldn’t it be great if they could tell us their own stories, or maybe write them down in a diary…?” It made a nice intro, we thought.

Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg
Told with one narrator, two silent ants, and projected images. Details in separate post.

Insectlopedia by Douglas Florian
We read two poems, with Florian's words projected alongside several photographs of the featured insects. We chose “The Monarch Butterfly” and “The Daddy Longlegs” (“Oh Daddy, Daddy-O, How’d you get those legs to grow?...”). We alternated lines between the three of us as we told.

“Name That Bug”We chose three kids, and each one read three clues about a bug. The audience made guesses and we revealed the answer at the end, showing a picture in the book. For example: “I have eight legs.” Some guesses. “I have two big eyes and two small eyes.” More guesses. “If I were your size, I could jump 80 feet.” A correct guess (which impressed me) and then we showed the fold out photo of the jumping spider from Nic Bishop Spiders. Along with the stories, we wanted to highlight non-fiction bug books in general, and also call attention to excellent individual titles like this one.

The Fly Guy books by Tedd Arnold
We did quick booktalks for several of these, using scanned images from the books. For example, with I Spy Fly Guy, we showed the image of Fly Guy happily using a garbage can for "hide and seek," then told how the can was taken to the dump and when Buzz got there and called Fly Guy's name, a zillion flies answered "BUZZ!" We've learned that if we combine booktalks in with the storytelling it's best to make them quick and concise. A good 20 or so Fly Guy books got checked out afterwards, so I think this one worked.

Bug YogaTo give the audience something active to do midway, we did three yoga poses and related them to bugs. Goddess Pose became “The Water Bug Pose,” Child’s Pose became “Roly Poly Pose,” and we got to use the real name for “Dead Bug Pose” (aka Happy Baby). On the screen we projected a photo of the bug and a diagram of the pose.

"Name That Bug" Part 2
This time we used the projector to have kids guess bugs. We scan an illustration and show just a small portion with the first slide and have the audience guess. The next slide shows more of the illustration and the final one shows the whole thing. An army ant from Micro Monsters is one example. Kind of similar to Tana Hoban's excellent die cut books like Look Book...but with pictures big enough for a large group to see. And again, when they've guessed the bug, we show them the book that it came from.

Anansi the Spider by Gerald McDermott
Told with child volunteers, puppets, and props. Details in separate post.

Fruit Loop Caterpillars
We added a snack/craft to close the program, where you put Fruit Loops on a pipe cleaner to make a caterpillar. You can eat the cereal but not the pipe cleaners. Apparently this works with licorice too, but we couldn’t find thin enough licorice around here.

School Promotion
Each month we present a "sneak preview" of the K-2 Book Adventure to about 130 kids at our two primary schools. We alternate grades so that all of the K's, 1's, and 2's see us every three months. We have about 15-20 minutes to get them excited about coming. This time we did one "Name That Bug" piece (which included a reference to crickets in lollipops that we knew they'd remember) and a bit from Anansi the Spider, which included squirting water and spraying silly string. We bring a quarter sheet reminder slip for all K-2 students, even the ones we don't visit that month, to make sure parents and caregivers get the details too.

Previous K-2 Book Adventure programs were: “Dragons,” “Arnold Lobel,” and “Fractured Fairy Tales.” Details may follow in separate posts, though it may be a while…

Elephant Stretching


Book: Babar’s Yoga for Elephants
Equipment: Scanner, Projector
Presenters: One
Audience: Mostly 3-6

Our weekly Family Storytimes typically feature three stories, with “in-betweeners” mixed in, as well as an opening and closing song. We choose stories by theme, but don’t worry about that with the in-betweeners. We need activities that are active, fun, and easy to follow, since our crowds are large and mixed in terms of age. For our “Elephants” theme, though, I thought of one that would fit nicely and be a bit different from the standards we usually use.

I’m not sure how Babar’s Yoga for Elephants by Laurent de Brunhoff compares to the other child yoga books out there, but in this case it had what we needed: at least two poses that were simple enough for preschool ages and for a not-so-flexible middle aged librarian; and an elephant character demonstrating them. We scanned each step of the illustrations that demonstrated two poses: “The Inverted Triangle” and “The Happy Warrior.” Clicking on the remote revealed the stages of the poses. Some of the kids did quite well, others were vaguely on track with the pictures, but all seemed to get a good stretch. Plus I got to remind them about Babar books even though we didn’t use one for our stories (but we did have plenty on display for checkout). And another nice thing about yoga for stretches is that you can introduce it by reminding all that “yoga is a very quiet and peaceful activity,” which does settle the group down some.

We also used yoga as a stretching activity for our January “K-2 Book Adventures” program, “Bug Tales.” We got the idea from our volunteer Sam, who pointed out that some yoga poses have buggish names (“The Dead Bug Pose” was our favorite) and others suggest bug poses even when the name doesn’t match (so we did “Child’s Pose” and said: “but we like to think of it as The Roly Poly Pose.”) It made a nice break in a packed program, which also included Elephants Can Paint Too by Katya Arnold and Watch Me Throw the Ball by Mo Willems, with details in separate posts.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Projected Painting Elephants

Story: Elephants Can Paint Too by Katya Arnold
Equipment: Scanner / Projector
Presenters: One
Audience: 3-6 year olds mostly

Since our audience is usually too big to see pictures from the book, we often scan and project illustrations, along with the usual acting out and puppetry. For our recent "Elephants" theme I shared Elephants Can Paint Too this way. Our storytimes are very performance oriented with lots of action and humor, but it's nice when we can mix in the occasional quiet, thoughtful, or just different book. This is a photo essay about Arnold's experience teaching elephants to paint in Thailand. The book is cleverly built around the contrast between her human students and her elephant ones. So "some students live in the city" is accompanied by a photo of a New York City school. And "some students live in the jungle" shows an elephant marching through the jungle. The book is a great example of creative non-fiction for young children, with well chosen photographs and a strong storytelling approach.

Scanning and projecting lets us play with the child/elephant contrast a little more directly. As narrator, you can time your words and your "clicks" with the remote to maximize the interplay of text and pictures. With the words "Some students use their hands," I click that image just as I start the sentence. But then I slow down and draw it out a bit: "....and some students paint with their [click] trunks!" The medium allows you to pace the telling in a way I don't think you can quite match with a book. I'm not suggesting it's better, just different, and I'm interested in exploring the possibilities as we do more of this.

Arnold does a neat job of guiding readers through the book, using large print to convey the basics and smaller print to add details. As a teller I stuck mostly with the large print, paraphrasing on occasion. I chose two of the more detailed bits that I felt were essential: That elephants don't really try to paint flowers, but sometimes the colors and lines they paint look like things we recognize. And I shared the part about why Arnold teaches elephants.
As a little bonus, after the book was over I added a few slides from the web of our local painting elephant, Rama, who lives at the Oregon Zoo and has his work on display there. Our "Elephants" theme also included Watch Me Throw the Ball by Mo Willems and bits from Babar's Yoga for Elephants by Laurent de Brunhoff...details in separate posts.





















Elephant and Piggie - Minimal Adaptation Required

Story: Watch Me Throw the Ball! by Mo Willems
Props: Elephant stuff (such as a nose and ears), Piggie stuff (nose, tail, or similar), a ball
Presenters: two
Audience: 3-6 mostly

I'm not sure I can choose which of Mo Willems' creations is my favorite...he's just too good at picture books. The Pigeon and Knuffle Bunny books should be enough genius for one person, and then along comes City Dog, Country Frog....amazing. But when it comes to adapting for larger crowds without the book, you can't beat Elephant and Piggie. At a recent Family Storytime, Brad and I acted out Watch Me Throw the Ball. You'd think that with an early reader and controlled vocabulary you would want to adapt pretty freely for storytelling, but in this case we pretty much used Willems words straight through. They're that good. You're supposed to repeat words in a book like this, so the new reader can get familiar with them. And he does that, but somehow makes that repetition part of character development. Like when Elephant says "It takes skill. It takes practice. It takes skill and practice." Good for new readers, great for a story teller trying to convey Elephant's personality (a little full of himself).

So anyway, our script was pretty much straight from the book. And the acting out was easy. I had an elephant nose and felt ears; Brad had a pig nose and a spiraly thing he found somewhere in our props for a tail. The dialog between the two, with their personalities so clearly different, works well. The big joke, when Piggie throws the ball (after a funny spinning wind-up) and it lands behind him, stretches out perfectly as a performance sequence: Piggie doesn't see the ball behind him, while the audience and Elephant do, and the dialog of the book leads us neatly through Piggie's initial excitement ("Call me Super Pig"), then denial ("I threw it around the world"), then happy acceptance ("I had fun"). When Piggie exits and Elephant thinks about it, then throws the ball backwards too, Piggie style, it's a fine ending.

I think there's something about the Early Reader format that can work really well for puppetry or acting out. Lobel's "Frog and Toad" books and Wiseman's "Morris and Boris" series are two others that have numerous stories that adapt naturally to use without the book, because they feature dialogue, humor, and personailities....I've done several of each over the years in various ways. But this was my first "Elephant and Piggie" and I look forward to trying more.

This was part of our "Elephants" Family Storytime. We also did a version of Elephants Can Paint Too by Katya Arnold and a bit from Babar's Yoga for Elephants...details in separate posts.






Monday, January 24, 2011

Two Bad Ants, Three Tellers, and One Laptop

Story: Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg
Props: Two pairs of antennae or something to suggest ants
Technology: Laptop + Projector
Presnters: One Narrator, two others acting out Ants
Audience: K-2 grades

Our “Bug Tales” program for grades K-2 included an adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg’s Two Bad Ants. His illustrations for this are great, but too small for our 100+ kids, so we projected images onto our screen using a laptop, projector, and PowerPoint. Projecting Van Allsburg's drawings onto the screen just didn't work well, so we dropped that idea and used photos, using these to support the central hook of the book: when the ants visit a kitchen they see things that we recognize, but they don’t. So a cup of coffee is a lake and a socket is a cave. Because they’re ant-sized. So the narrator told the bare bones of the story, while the two ants silently acted out the appropriate motions, and at the same time the image on the screen revealed the ants’ mistake. Easier to show than to tell, so here are a couple examples:

Narrator: The ants marched through forests of tall green trees.
Ants: March playfully across the stage.
Image: A photograph of a field of grass.

Narrator: The ants were dropped into a hot lake of brown water.
Ants: Pretend to swim desperately.
Image: A cup of coffee.

I was a little worried that this wouldn’t quite come together, but the audience totally got it. They laughed at the ants’ antics, guessed what the next image would be, and followed the story just fine. The two silent ants really made this story work. It could be done with one person, who could narrate and do the actions of one ant (to represent both), but not as effectively I think. I’ve done the story solo to a smaller group, using two ant hand puppets and instead of images on a screen, pulling the real objects (toaster, brick, coffee cup) out of a bag. Pretty successful, but the group performance was much more engaging. It helps to work with Terri and Sheila who are wonderful at physical comedy and make everything look so fun.

Finding matching images is really not that hard these days thanks to the web. I never did find a garbage disposal that worked well, so we cut that incident. Showing a photo of a shiny toaster, followed by one of the red-hot insides of a toaster, was especially effective. My image-searching philosophy is to use the first one that works…I don’t like to spend a ton of time on it, and if it requires more I figure it just might not be worth it.

I made a brief attempt to include sounds in the PowerPoint, searching for garbage disposal, flowing faucet, and an explosion (when the wet ants are shot out of the light socket), but it was harder to find just right ones, plus it felt like it might be a distraction….maybe next time. My co-worker Brad uses sound very effectively in his screen/projector version of The Wizard, the Fairy, and the Magic Chicken by Helen Lester. He tells it with images on the screen, and when the characters finally vanquish the monsters with thunder, lightning, and rain, some very loud thunder plays….the kids love it. So I’m keeping an ear open for stories that would work well with sound as well as images. But for Two Bad Ants, I thought the narration, acting out, and images on the screen worked just about right.

Our "Bug Tales" program for K-2 also included Anansi the Spider by Gerald McDermott, with details in a separate post.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

About This Blog

What’s in it? Mostly it’s ideas for sharing children’s books with groups (storytimes and other programs) in ways besides the obvious, which is: read them. Not that there’s anything wrong with reading books. It’s still the single best way to get kids and parents excited about books. But in my 25+ years as a children’s librarian, I’ve run across many situations where that doesn’t always work that well: The pictures are too small, the group is too large or the story is too long, for example. And I’ve also found that mixing up a presentation with puppets, props, drama, and (more recently) technology can grab the attention of kids in a different way. And all of these ways still generate excitement about stories and books, which is what we’re all about. Plus it’s fun for me to mix it up a little. Bark George is truly a perfect picture book, but once in a while I like to put the book down, pick up my big dog puppet, put on a latex glove, and pull some animals out of his throat…

Where do these stories get told? With my current job as Youth Services Librarian with the Wilsonville Public Library (OR), I have several regular programs where I have occasions tell stories without the book. In my weekly Toddler Time for ages 1 and 2 I use puppets at least once, usually twice. We do a monthly program called “K-2 Book Adventures” where we typically present several books in a variety of ways. And we do weekly Family Storytimes that often draw 100+ people, which requires lots of creative approaches to telling. So those programs provide much of the “what we did this week” material, plus I’ll also mention a few tales that I’ve done in the past.

Who tells these stories? When I mention “we,” I’m referring to the five person team of storytellers at the Wilsonville Public Library. I only started here in 2010, but the children’s staff have been doing dynamic, creative storytimes to huge crowds for many years. Our current members are Sheila Shapiro, Terri Wortman, Brad Clark, and Shannon Belford. Much of our story development is collaborative, and we frequently use two or more tellers in a presentation. As you read this blog you’ll hear plenty about their creative contributions.

Why share them on a blog? When I was just starting out as a Children’s Librarian I was invited to observe another librarian, Peggy Tollefson do a storytime. She took out a great picture book: Peace at Last by Jill Murphy. She showed it to the kids, then put down the book, took her bear puppet and proceeded to tell the story orally, using the bear. I was just getting the hang of reading to kids in a group and I thought: wow, now that’s something different! Ever since I’ve been on the look out for new ways to share books and have regularly borrowed, adapted, or flat out copied ideas from others doing the same. Children’s librarians generally love to trade ideas and adapt them to our styles and situations. So I’ll share some here and hope a few of them take life somewhere else. Meanwhile I’m also hoping to get feedback from readers about your own experiences and ideas about telling without the book.

How can I find particular stories or story types? You can use the list of labels that always appears on the right. Entries are labeled according to the program/age level they work for: Toddler, Storytime, and K-2 are the main ones for now. There are also labels for the type of story: Puppets, Props, and Projectors for example. Also you can check the Index of Stories for an alphabetical list.

Index of Stories & Programs

An Alphabetical List of Individual Stories (with Program Summaries below)

Ain't Gonna Paint No More  by Karen Beaumont, Illustrated by David Catrow
All of Our Noses are Here, and other Noodle Tales by Alvin Schwartz, Illustrated by Karen Ann Weinhaus
The Amazing, the Incredible, Super Dog  by Crosby Bonsall
Anansi and the Moss-Coverd Rock  by Eric Kimmel, Illustrated by Janet Stevens
Anansi the Spider by Gerald McDermott
Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi Barrett, Illustrated by Ron Barrett
The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse  by Eric Carle
Ask Mr. Bear  by Marjorie Flack
Babar's Yoga for Elephants by Laurent de Brunhoff
A Ball for Daisy  by Chris Raschka
Bark George  by Jules Feiffer
Big and Little by Margaret Miller 
The Big Fat Worm by Nancy Van Laan, Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
Blue Sea by Robert Kalan, Illustrated by Donald Crews
Book! Book! Book!  by Deborah Bruss, Illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See by Bill Martin Jr., Illustrated by Eric Carle
Bugs A to Z  by Terri DeGezelle
But Excuse Me That is My Book  by Lauren Child
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
The Carrot Seed  by Ruth Krauss, Illustrated by Crockett Johnson
City Dog and Country Frog by Mo Willems, Illustrated by Jon J. Muth
Click, Clack, Moo by Doreen Cronin, Illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Conejito: A Folktale from Panama  by Margaret Read MacDonald, Illustrated by Geraldo Valério
Creepy Carrots  by Aaron Reynolds, Ilustrated by Peter Brown
Crictor  by Tomi Ungerer

Dear Zoo  by Rob Campbell
Dog Changes His Name by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (from the book Dog and Bear: Two Friends, Three Stories)
Don't Copy Me  by Jonathan Allen
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

Elephants Can Paint Too by Katya Arnold
Falling for Rapunzel  by Leah Wilcox, Illustrated by Lydia Monks
Farmyard Beat  by Lindsey Craig, Illustrated by Marc Brown
The Fat Cat  by Jack Kent  (also available by Margaret Read MacDonald, Illustrated by Julie Paschkis)
Flip, Flap, Fly!  by Phyllis Root, Illustrated by David Walker
Friends: True Stories of Extraordinary Animal Friendships  by Catherine Thimmesh
Frog and Toad:  "Cookies"  by Arnold Lobel  (from the book Frog and Toad Together)
Frog and Toad:  "The Story"  by Arnold Lobel (from the book Frog and Toad are Friends)
Go to Bed, Monster by Natasha Wing, Illustrated by Sylvie Kantorovitz
Grandpa Toad's Secrets by Keiko Kasza
The Gunniwolf  by Wilhelmina Harper, Illustrated by Barbara Upton (2003) or William Wiesner (1967)
The Greatest of All  by Eric Kimmel, Ilustrated by Giora Carmi
Happy Birthday Moon  by Frank Asch
Head, Body, Legs by Won Ldy-Paye & Margaret H. Lippert, Illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Here Comes the Big Rhyming Dust Bunny  by Jan Thomas
How Chipmunk Got His Stripes by Joseph Bruchad, Illustrated by Jose Areugo & Ariane Dewey
How Kind  by Mary Murphy
I Am Going  by Mo Willems
I Broke My Trunk  by Mo Willems
I Made a Mistake  by Miriam Nerlove
If You Give a Dog a Donut  by Laura Numeroff, Illustrated by Felicia BondI'm a Baby, You're a Baby by Lisa Kopper
I'm a Frog  by Mo Willems
I'm Looking for an Animal which is just a little song I made up
Inch by Inch  by Leo Lionni
It's a Tiger!  by David LaRochelle, Illustrated by Jeremy Tankard
The Journey  by Arnold Lobel  (from the book Mouse Tales)
Jump by Scott Fischer
Jump, Frog, Jump! by Robert Kalan, Illustrated by Byron Barton
King Bidgood's in the Bathtub  by Audrey Wood, Illustrated by Don Wood
The King, The Mice, and the Cheese by Nancy and Eric Gurney
Lazy Jack by Vivian French  (other versions also)
Let's Go For a Drive ("Elephant & Piggie")  by Mo Willems

Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy  by Jan Thomas
The Little Engine That Could  by Watty Piper

The Little Red Hen  
"The Little Rooster and the Turkish Sultan"  (from the book Twenty Tellable Tales by Margaret Read McDonald)
Lizard's Song by George Shannon, Illustrated by Jose Aruego & Ariane Dewey
Martina the Beautiful Cockroach by Carmen Agra Deedy, Illustrated by Michael Austin
Mister Rabbit and the Lovely Present  by Charlotte Zolotow, Illustrated by Maurice Sendak

The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt, Illustrated by Yaroslava (other versions also available)
Monkey See, Look at Me!  by Lorena Siminovich
"Morris and Boris:  'The Game'" (from the book Morris and Boris: Three Stories by Bernard Wiseman)
Mother, Mother, I Want Another  by Maria Polushkin Robbins, Illustrated by Jon Goodell (earlier version illustrated by Diane Dawson)
Mr. Gumpy's Outing  by John Burningham
The Napping House  by Audrey Wood, Illustrated by Don Wood
No, David!  by David Shannon
No No Yes Yes  by Leslie Patricelli
No Sleep for the Sheep  by Karen Beaumont, Illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic
Not a Stick  by Antoinette Portis
Officer Buckle and Gloria  by Peggy Rathman
Oh, A-Hunting We Will Go by John Langstaff, Illustrated by Nancy Winslow Parker
On Mother's Lap by Ann Herbert Scott
Peekaboo, Puppy!  by Beth Harwood, Illustrated by Mike Jolley and Emma Dodd
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin, Illustrated by James Dean
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes (This Time with Mud version) by Eric Litwin, Illustrated by James Dean
Pickin' Peas  by Margaret Read MacDonald, Illustrated by Pat Cummings
Piggle  by Crosby Bonsall 
Pirate Pete  by Kim Kennedy, Illustrated by Doug Kennedy
Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest  by Gerald McDermott
Red-Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley, Photographs by Nic Bishop
Rhyming Dust Bunnies  by Jan Thomas
The Runaway Bunny  by Margaret Wise Brown,  Illustrated by Clement Hurd
Sam Who Never Forgets  by Eve Rice
The Seals on the Bus  by Lenny Hort, Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Silly Sally  by Audrey Wood
Snack Time for Confetti  by Kali Stileman
The Sneetches
by Dr. Seuss
Squeak-a-Lot by Martin Waddell, Illustrated by Virginia Muller
The Squeaky Door by Margaret Read MacDonald, Illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Stories  by Jon Scieszcka, Illustrated by Lane Smith
Storm is Coming  by Heather Tekavec and Margaret Spengler
Tacky the Penguin  by Helen Lester, Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
Thank You, Bear  by Greg Foley

That Is Not a Good Idea  by Mo Willems
There Are Cats in This Book  by Viviane Schwarz
This Is Not My Hat  by Jon Klassen
The Three Bears (with kazoos)
The Three Bears (with puppets)
The Three Bears (with Star Wars guys)
The Three Little Pigs (with puppets)
The Three Little Pigs (finger story)
The Three Ninja Pigs  by Corey Rosen Schwartz, Illustrated by Dan Santat
Tops and Bottoms  by Janet Stevens

Tortoise and the Hare  by Aesop 
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs  by Jon Scieszka, Illustrated by Lane Smith
Tuck Me In by Dean Hacohen, Illustrated by Sherry Scharschmidt
Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg
Very Tall Mouse and Very Small Mouse  by Arnold Lobel (from the book Mouse Tales)
Watch Me Throw the Ball by Mo Willems
We Are in a Book  by Mo Willems
What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?  by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
What Was I Scared Of by Dr. Seuss (from the book The Sneetches and Other Stories)
What Will Fat Cat Sit On by Jan Thomas (with puppets)
What Will Fat Cat Sit On by Jan Thomas (with people)
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Who Said Meow?  by Maria Polushkin, Illustrated by Ellen Weiss (and by Guiliano Maestro)
Who Took the Cookies from the Cookie Jar  by Bonnie Lass & Philemon Sturges; Illustrated by Ashley Wolff (other versions also available)
Whose Mouse are You?  by Robert Kraus, Illustrated by Jose Aruego
Why Dogs Chase Cats by Julius Lester (from the book The Knee-High Man and other Tales)
The Wide Mouthed Frog by Rex Schneider
The Wizard, the Fairy, and the Magic Chicken by Helen Lester, Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
Z is for Moose  by Kelly Bingham, Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky


Program Summaries

Bug Tales (a K-2 Book Adventure)
Dr. Seuss Celeberation (a K-2 Book Adventure)
Food in Fact and Fiction (a K-2 Book Adventure)
Magical Tales and Tricks (a K-2 Book Adventure)
Mo Williams Author Celebration (a K-2 Book Adventure)
One Story, Three Ways - "The Little Red Hen"  (Family Storytime)
One Story, Three Ways - "The Three Bears" (Family Storytime)
One Story, Three Ways - "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" (Family Storytime)
One Story, Three Ways - "The Three Pigs" (Family Storytime)
Silly Stories (a K-2 Book Adventure)
Trickster Tales (a K-2 Book Adventure)
Wild Animals (a K-2 Book Adventure)

Anansi Meets Silly String

Story: Anansi the Spider by Gerald McDermott
Puppets: spider, falcon or similar bird, fish
Props: silly glasses, silly string, big cup, sword, ball, pillow, squirt bottle, styrofoam ball
Players: at least one storyteller + six child volunteers
Audience: K-2nd grades
Video:  How to Tell Anansi the Spider with Puppets

Our January "K-2 Book Adventure" program was "Bug Tales," and even though spiders aren't technically bugs, we used the loosest definition in order to fit in Anansi the Spider by Gerald McDermott. I love to use this as a straight book with small groups of K's or 1's, but for big groups (we had about 100 kids) we stray from the formal tone of the folktale and get a bit silly. In the story, each of Anansi's children has a special talent, so six volunteers play those roles and we give each a prop. So "See Trouble" gets big goofy glasses. "Road Builder" gets silly string, to build a road out of webs. "River Drinker" gets a big cup or bowl, "Game Skinner" a sword, "Stone Thrower" a ball, and "Cushion" holds a pillow. The narrator tells the story with a spider hand puppet, sticking fairly close to McDermott's fine storytelling language. Anansi gets lost, falls into trouble, and is swallowed by fish, all told and shown by the narrator. Once Anansi is swallowed, the kids' part comes, and so does some silliness.

When the time comes for each child to do his thing, we guide the volunteer. See Trouble just steps forward and looks goofy. But Road Builder squirts the silly string all over the place, which is chaotic and fun. After things settle down, River Drinker pretends to gulp from his big bowl as the narrator adds: "he was kind of a messy drinker and sometimes he spilled," and squirts the audience with water. Game Skinner slices at the fish with his toy sword, then the narrator uses the puppet bird to lift the spider puppet up, at which point Stone Thrower throws the ball at him. As the spider puppet slowly descends, Cushion steps up with the pillow and Anansi lands gently.

This whole sequence can get wild, so I warn the audience in advance to stay seated (but silly string is hard to resist). Stone Thrower may not hit the bird, but that's fine...just give him another try or say that the ball scared the bird into dropping Anansi. As the storyteller you can control the story even when the visuals (puppets and props) don't play out perfectly.

Once that action is done, the story moves neatly back into a more thoughtful, serious tone. Anansi finds a "great globe of white light" (a styrofoam sphere) and tries to decide which child most deserves it as a prize. This gives the six volunteers one more chance to step forward as he considers each: "Was it See Trouble who helped him the most?...or Road Builder...?" Which leads to the highly satisfying ending where the Sky God puts the globe into the sky for all to see (as the moon). We don't need a Sky God character...the narrator acts as him. We attached the "moon" to fishing line strung on the ceiling and subtly lifted it up to the ceiling, a neat little extra effect.

I've wondered at times if I stray to far from the book in this version, since the tale is really not silly at all. On the other hand, six spiders with wonderful talents just lends itself so nicely to acting out with kids and props. And I like the way you can still use the language and tone of the book as a storyteller...the transition from silly string chaos back into the moon bit at the end is really smooth because it's all anchored by McDermott's language and the patterned plot of the folktale.

Our "K-2 Bug Tales" program also featured Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg, with details in a separate post.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I Wish My Cat Were Fatter

Story: What Will Fat Cat Sit On by Jan Thomas
Puppets: Cat, Cow, Pig, Chicken, Dog, Mouse
Props: A bag to keep them in, a chair to sit on
Presenter: one
Audience: Toddler Time (1 and 2 year olds)

I have a fine puppet cat: a grey striped Folkmanis hand puppet with fairly agile arms and an expressive face. He’s not particularly skinny, but you couldn’t call him fat either. Still, when I decided to do What Will Fat Cat Sit On by Jan Thomas in this week’s Toddler Time, he got the lead role and managed just fine. After using this book several times with kids in the past few years, this was my first try at using puppets instead. When I use puppets, I try not to get too hung up on matching them just right with the book; I don’t have that many puppets and I don’t make my own, so I use what will work. In this case, Fat Cat threatens to sit on several of his friends and it’s very funny to see the huge cat that Thomas draws for the book. But with puppets, movement matters more than size, and you can still create that moment where the audience thinks: “Oh no, pig is about to be squished!”

At the line “What will Fat Cat sit on?,” I pop Cat out of my bag and he looks around at the kids. Then it’s: “Will he sit on…..” and the attention goes back to the bag. A bit of hesitation to generate more anticipation (and to get my hand into that dang little pig puppet), then out pops Pig. Cat may not look that much bigger than Pig, but by moving him ominously above Pig and having Pig look up in fear and move about nervously, you get the same effect as the book.

Thomas is great at packing surprises and suspense into very few words, just at the preschool level. I like those moments with puppets too. So after Fat Cat has nearly squished Pig, Chicken, and Cow, I lengthen the hesitation a bit for Dog, who pops out and rises ominously above Cat. Puppet Cat and Puppet Dog can’t come close to duplicating the expressiveness of Thomas’ illustrations, so they need to convey the twist in the tale through their positioning.

And when you’re telling a tale with puppets, but without a stage or curtain, your own facial expressions are crucial. Kids watch the puppets, but they also watch your face, so when Pig pops out of the bag, your expression is scared and worried; when Dog pops out you’ve got a bit of a frown. The kids notice this and seamlessly ascribe your expressions to the puppet you’re holding.

The story finishes with another great storytelling touch from Thomas. Mouse pops out and seems like the most likely victim, but cleverly suggests that Cat sit in a chair. At which point I slide off the chair I’m sitting on and seat the puppet there. And for the final joke (“Now what will Fat Cat have for lunch…?”) I do a quick little double take between Cat and Mouse: They look at each other, then both look at the audience, then quickly at each other again…it’s an easy bit of puppetry that really catches the attention of a group.

And catching the attention can be pretty important with a Toddler Time. My sessions are for 1 and 2 year olds, and to me What Will Fat Cat Sit On in book form is just right for 3's. The puppet version, though, can often stretch the age level younger, and it works in this case. The 1's and 2's see the action of a cat nearly sitting on a bunch of animals, and at that age that's a bit easier to focus on than the pictures on the page, especially when you're amidst twenty other ones and twos to distract you. That's one reason I typically save my puppet stories for the end of Toddler Time, knowing they stand the best chance of grabbing the kids who are just about at the end of their natural be-in-a-group limits.