Sunday, May 20, 2012

Presents from Dear Zoo

Book:  Dear Zoo by Rob Campbell
Puppets:  Elephant, Lion, Monkey, Giraffe, other Zoo Animals optional, Puppy
Props:  Boxes and bags for presents (optional)
Presenters:   1
Audience:  Toddler Time or Family Storytime

The puppet "Pop-Out" is always a strong moment in Storytimes...that's when the kids know a puppet's about to pop out of the bag, but they don't know what it will be.  Lift-the-flap books like Dear Zoo are sort of like the print equivalent of the puppet Pop-Out.  Which makes Rob Campbell's book a natural for presenting with puppets.  I've done it two ways....one's simple, the other's requires a bit more stuff. 

For the simple version, it's just me and puppets in the bag.  I tell the kids that I wrote to the zoo to ask them to send me a pet and they sent me (and here comes the pop-out)......An Elephant!  "But he was too big.  So I sent him back.  And then they sent me....A Lion."  And so on.  The anticipation and recognition of the animal is a surefire attention grabber.  It's also fun to let the kids supply the reason why I would send each pet back (and also practice for their vocabulary and narrative skills).  Just popping out the puppets is fine, but some of the sequences allow for more activity.  When the Frog is "too jumpy" he can jump around on your hand as you try to catch him.  The "too naughty" Monkey can do whatever mischievous stuff comes to mind.  When the people at the Zoo finally "thought very hard" and sent a Puppy, I like to ask the kids what they think they sent and draw out the pleasant surprise finale (A Puppy!) 

 Depending on how many animals are used, the puppet management can be a bit tricky, since there are a lot of them and they come out one after another, so I typically use a couple bags to hold them without too much crowding.  And you need to work out where you'll put them after they've done their thing:  either on a table where the audience can see (but won't grab) or back in a bag or box.  For Toddler Time I usually use four or five animals, plus the "perfect" Puppy at the end, and it's fine to substitute as needed. 

To expand it into more of a production, I've also done this story with all of the animals in their own individual bags, boxes, or packages.  Each with a "To Steven, From the Zoo" tag attached.  So instead of just the animal Popping-Out, it's a box.  And then you open the box, just as you would a package delivered in the mail, and out pops the animal.  So it's the same idea and the same effect, but it extends the premise of the book more fully and draws out the anticipation more.  This way really isn't necessary for Toddler Time, where too much stuff going on can just overwhelm the kids, but it makes a nice Preschool story.

This is also a fine stage puppet show for preschool audiences.  I don't use packages or anything else with a stage because the puppet interaction really carries the story.   I use a boy puppet, and you can have the animals popping out at various locations, have the boy not-see-them-but-then-see-them, throw in a few chases as he tries to catch them to send them back....all that fun puppet show stuff. 



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