Book: Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas
Puppets: 3 Dust Bunnies; Puppet Stage
Props: Broom (with face); Vacuum Cleaner (also with face)
Technology: PowerPoint with projector (optional)
Audience: Family Storytime (mostly 3-6 year olds)
When I came to the Wilsonville Library for my job interview two years ago I knew I was in the right place. In the office by the Children's Room were two people (Brad and Sheila) wildly waving around some colored dust mops and trading off rhymes in loud, expressive voices. I realized, of course, that those mops and rhymes could only mean that they were doing something really fun with a very cool new book: Jan Thomas' Rhyming Dust Bunnies. They developed the story as a puppet show the next week, and a couple years later Terri and I presented it as part of our "Silly Stories" storytime, using Brad and Sheila's concept and adding one more piece.
The mops, once you add some facial features, are Ned, Ted, and Bob (we dropped Ed to make the puppetry more manageable). The eyes and and mouths are laminated paper, stuck on with hot glue; mouths are big pom pons. The bright colors are really appealing, and stick puppets work great for the story, where the characters' movements are simple and distinct: appear, disappear, side to side, etc. Terri managed Ned, plus the Broom and Vacuum; I was Ted and Bob. We had the DB's do their rhyming exchanges first on the lower platform, then up top, then lower again, to keep movement and variety.
The premise of the story, if you don't know it, is that Ned and Ted are great at rhymes ("Bug...Hug...Mug...Rug..."), but when it's Bob's turn, he gets it way wrong ("Look Out!"). Of course Bob's words are actually meant to warn the others that there's danger coming: first a Broom, then a Vacuum. The Broom is really just another stick puppet, with a face glued on (so the bottom of the broom is the top of its head) but requires a bit of coordination between the two puppeteers. As she picks up the Broom, Terri hands me Ned so I hold the three mops in two hands, allowing us to have a fun chase segment, again using the lower and upper sections of the stage.
Then the finale, which is even more fun. The DB's think they're safe again, but Bob spots a "Vacuum!" So now Terri lifts the mini Vacuum up to the stage and turns it on. As each DB gets closer to the Vacuum, the audience can see the strings being pulled toward the nozzle, and there's that satisfying "thwump!" when it gets caught. We have them each get thwumped one by one, then put the Vacuum up on the platform for the ending.
The one piece that Terri and I added was to project the rhyming words on the screen right behind and above the stage. We stuck them on PowerPoint slides, and with our clicker we could make each word bubble appear just when it's spoken by the Dust Bunny. Well that's the idea anyway, but managing the puppets, dialog, and clicker is a little confusing, so our timing was right most of the time, but not always. (Another reason why it's nice that we repeat our Storytimes four times in a week and can get closer to precision each time). Besides being a great story, the book is also excellent for print awareness concepts along with phonological development, so seeing the words as part of the puppet show helped to retain that strong print element.