Book: Sam Who Never Forgets by Eve Rice
Puppets: Sam, 3+ Zoo Animals, Elephant
Props: Food for Zoo Animals
Audience: Toddlers, Prescshoolers
Another old (1977!) favorite of mine that tells quite well with puppets. It stars Sam the Zookeeper and several zoo animals. You don't need to have all of the animals to tell it with puppets. Sam feeds each of the animals one by one. I have each animal lined up in my puppet bag on my left hand side and the food props for the animals in a box on my right hand side. The telling is, like the book, a combination of narration and dialog:
"First Sam feeds.....[reach into bag and pop out...]....Giraffe! For Giraffe, Sam has brought....[hesitate, let kids guess while you reach for the prop]...leaves! 'Hello, Giraffe! I've brought you some nice green leaves today.' 'Thank you Sam!' Leaves are just what Giraffe likes best."
The gentle, friendly interaction with props and puppets is nice, but when he gets to Elephant...Sam's wagon is empty! This is one of those nice moments when you get to watch your audience of two year olds, who were so comfortable with reliable old Sam and the clear repetitive pattern of the book start to get worried. So far they only had to think about which animal would come next and what the food would be. They never dreamed he would skip someone! And as Elephant calls out ("Sam....did you forget?") there's just enough of that toddler tension to set up the triumphant ending, where Sam reappears with a wagonful of hay. Because Elephant is just so very large that Sam needs a whole wagon to carry his food. And the happy ending is perfectly punctuated with "three cheers for Sam, Sam who never ever forgets."
For Toddler Times, this story works fine with just three animals plus elephants. I typically use Monkey, Giraffe, and Crocodile, mostly because I have the food props to match: Banana, Leaves, and Small Child (just kidding...Fish). For Elephant's hay I just drag out the paper cutter and yellow construction paper and chop up a bunch of strips. Sam can be any person puppet (male or female and you don't even have to change the name). I've also told it without a Sam puppet, acting as the Zookeeper myself, and that works okay too.
The first times I did this (early 90's) I used to go a little farther, setting the animals up on chairs, using a box decorated to look like a wagon and, as Sam, walking from one to the next. It's more of a production, and in the end really didn't add anything to the heart of the story, so as usual I opted for the more basic approach. Plus this meant I could remove the box-that's-decorated-to-look-like-a-zookeeper's-wagon from my limited prop storage place (though come to think of it, the box was also just right for The Box with Red Wheels by the Petershams, an even older book which I haven't done for quite a while).
I do think Sam Who Never Forgets would make a good two-person story acted out though, with one teller as Sam and the other using puppets or animal hats for each of the animals. Maybe one of these days in our Family Storytime.....
I have to admit I've always been just a bit bothered about the logic of this otherwise perfect picture book. We know Sam feeds the animals every day. And every day he must have the same situation: he needs to make a separate trip for Elephant's food. So does Elephant forget that this is going to happen every day? Is the same drama going to play out tomorrow, and the next day, and every day from now on? Is Elephant that forgetful? Or is this maybe Elephant's first day at the Zoo? But if so, why does he seem to be familiar with Sam already? I know, this is more thought than you need to put into a picture book, especially one that captures this moment so perfectly, and of course no child or parent has ever raised this question....but I still think about it every time I share the book.