Monday, January 2, 2012

A Dog, a Donut, and a Bunch of Props

Book:  If You Give a Dog a Donut
Author:  Laura Numeroff, Illustrated by Felicia Bond
Puppets:   Dog
Props:  Donut, Apple Juice, Apple, Tree, Football, Baseball, Regular Glove, Baseball Mitt;  Puppet or Stuffed Bat;  Baseball Bat;  Water Pitcher, Squirt Bottles;  Big Squirt Gun;  Bandana, Kite (some can be substituted or omitted)
Presenters:  2 or 3
Audience:   K-2

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie was one of the books I read the first time I ever did a storytime (1986!).  I’ve since told it with a puppet and props many times over the years, but for this latest book in the series, If You Give a Dog a Donut, we decided to do it with a Dog puppet behind the stage (me), a kid getting stuff for the dog in front of the stage (Sheila), and a narrator (Terri).  We did the story for our December K-2 Book Adventure:  Food in Fact and Fiction.

As the Kid,
Sheila has a box full of stuff on a table, and as each line is read, she rummages through, finds the right thing, and gives it to the dog.  It’s almost that simple.  But you need a little more to really make it fun, and that comes from the interplay between kid and Dog.  So when Dog picks an apple from a tree (we have a tree cut-out that we leaned against the puppet stage), he tosses it to the Kid…who tosses it back.  And then when Kid’s back is turned, Dog tosses it one more time, beaning her on the head. 

We also played around with the Kid sometimes getting the wrong thing.  Instead of a baseball, she brings a football, which Dog rejects.  After the baseball is found, Kid gets a bat from the box…but it’s a puppet animal bat….get it?  (I never get tired of this kind of joke, and fortunately K-2’s think they’re pretty funny too).  Finally when it’s time for Kid to be the pitcher, she brings a pitcher of water!  It’s tempting to throw in as many of these mistakes as you can possibly think of, but we just did a short series of them to keep the kids guessing and the pace varied. Of course when it comes to “he’ll probably start a water fight….” we pull out our squirt bottles and squirt each other, then the kids.  We ended this segment by both pulling out a giant super soaker, but stopped short of actually shooting these. 

Gathering props for a story like this can be tricky, so we edited segments if we felt that the props would be too much trouble to get.  For example, instead of having Dog find a kite, then ask for sticks, paper, and string to make his own, then fly it, we just had him find a kite and fly that one.  We talked about how we could lift the kite with fishing line looped around the ceiling vents….but no.  That really doesn’t add that much, so why not just hold the kite above the puppet stage and move it back and forth, and that worked fine.  Reducing the number of lines a bit left a little more room for us to play.  Also, we’re always pressed for time in our preparation for this program each month, and in a way that’s a good thing because it forces us towards simplifying and focusing on the core elements of the stories.

This story could work with two people, with the Kid also doing the narration, but for us the three person approach worked best.  It allowed Sheila to focus on the prop management and act out her responses to the Dog in ways that made the kids laugh.  And Terri timed her narration to work with Sheila’s acting out, while also leaving enough time for me to manage Dog’s props when I needed to. 

Though I haven’t done this story solo yet, I would take the same approach I use with If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.  A Dog puppet on my left hand, while my right hand digs into a box of props on the left.  This can be a little daunting as you reach around trying to grab the right prop…so I always make sure to line up the props in just the right order and rehearse the prop handling process at least a couple times without even worrying about the narration part.   

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