Book: Book, Book, Book! by Deborah Bruss; Illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke
Puppets: Cow, Horse, Duck, Chicken, Frog
Props: A bunch of books
Audience: Family Storytime
I first learned this story as a joke....always a favorite among librarians. Then Deborah Bruss and Tiphanie Beeke fleshed it out into an excellent book. I've done it a solo puppet story and also as an oral tale, but a couple weeks ago Sheila and I presented it with puppets and acting out. We shortened the book a bit, using just five animals and reducing the dialog to the bare minimum. Sheila played the Librarian while I was behind the puppet stage. First Cow and Horse decide to go to the library and get some books. Horse goes first, calling for the Libarian with a "Neigh." As the Librarian, Sheila doesn't hear at first, which instantly gets the kids involved ("It's a horse! Over there!!"). She asks "what can I do for you?" and Horse answers "Neigh" again.
Most of the kids caught on almost instantly that "Neigh!" meant: "Book!" But the Librarian plays up the mistake: "Oh, you mean 'neighbors'! Yes, we are neighbors. The Library is right next to the farm..." At which point Horse gives several irritated "Neighs" and storms off. To make sure everyone's following, Cow asks Horse if he got a book: "No, I kept asking for one, but the Librarian didn't understand what I was saying." "I'll try," says Cow, so that when she says "Moo" to the Librarian, everyone is in on the joke by now.
The same pattern follows with Cow: Oh, you would like some Moo-sic? I'll sing a song for you...; and Duck: "You want some Quack-ers? Here you go" (and Duck spits them back at her). This all sets the stage for Chicken, whose "Bok-Bok-Bok" sounds just like "Book-Book-Book." From behind the stage, I could hear even the parents laughing as they just got the joke. The Librarian gives Chicken a book (about chickens), then asks her what those other animals wanted. After learning they also wanted "Book-Book-Books" the Librarian gives just the right book as each puppet pops back in turn. Finally Frog makes his appearance and when the Librarian confidently gives him a copy of Froggy Gets Dressed he shakes his head and answers "Read-It! Read-It!" Again, this joke is right at the level of preschool kids.
Doing this with two people makes it very smooth. The puppetry isn't too complicated. With this sort of hybrid act-out/puppet show presentation you just have to make sure the puppets respond to the person acting, not just to each other. The moments when they interact physically (taking books, spitting crackers...) accentuate that nicely. And moving them forward now and then, in front of the stage platform, also helps bring the two worlds together.
For the solo version there's no puppet stage and no Librarian puppet. I just be the Librarian and pull puppets out of the bag one at a time. It's not as big and not as smooth as the way we did it with two, but the story and the jokes are strong enough that it still works well..