Friday, February 22, 2013

Farm Animals Got the Beat

Book:   Farmyard Beat by Lindsey Craig, Illustrated by Marc Brown
Puppets:   4-6 Farm Animals (can make substitutions from the book)
Props:  None
Presenters:   One
Audience:   Toddler Time (1's and 2's mostly)

Since I use puppets a lot in Toddler Time, I want more books like Farmyard Beat by Lindsey Craig and Marc Brown.  It's an excellent book to read aloud and share with pictures, but adapts to a simple puppet story very easily. Not quite directly, but just a few adjustments make it a just about perfect puppet story.  

The story is simple, as a toddler plot should be:  Chicks wake up Sheep; Sheep wakes Cat; Cat wakes Cow; and so on.  It's told with a rhythmic, repetitive rhyme that's easy for the teller to remember and easy for the audience to join in with:  "Chicks can't sleep.  Chicks can't sleep.  Chicks can't sleep 'cause they got that beat.  Peep!  Peep!  Peep-peep-peep!  All that peeping wakes up.....Sheep!"

So you can picture how this works with puppets.  Chick pops out and moves in rhythm to the chant.  When it gets to the "peep-peep-peep," Chick directs the peeps at the puppet bag.  An anticipatory pause after "wakes up..." leads to Sheep popping out.  Chick goes away, and Sheep does a turn with the same refrain, which leads to....Cat.  It's a nice smooth rhythm with an animal pop-out surprise at the end of each verse, and some good audience participation possibilities:  animal sounds, clapping along, and some will join in on the "--- can't sleep, --- can't sleep" refrain.
So it works great just following the text. But to make it just right for Toddler Time, I do make a few changes.

1. Switch plurals: The book uses plurals for some animals (like "cows" and "chicks") and I just keep everything in the singular.  It's that old I-only-have-two-hands problem.  And an easy adjustment. 

2. Cut repeated line: The book repeats the animal sound refrain: "Peep, peep, peep-peep-peep" happens twice in a row. You might get a bit more joining in from the group if you stick with doing it twice, but I just feel like it flows a little better with just one time. That one could go either way.

3. Change animal sounds: Those animal refrains are silly and fun in the book. Chick is a straightforward "Peep, peep, peep," to rhyme with Sheep, but Sheep goes "Tat! Tat! Tattity-tat-tat!' Fun to say, and also "Tat" rhymes with "Cat," to lead into the next verse. Works great with the book, but I decided to simplify these for the puppets. So Sheep's refrain becomes: "Baa! Baa! Baa-baa-Bat!" This way the toddlers get the animal sound they're used to, and can anticipate and play along more easily. Also, changing "Tat" to "Bat" at the end actually accentuates the rhyme that's about to follow because it's so clearly a switch from the expected sound. They can hear it better I think.
This really is an excellent stand-alone book, and here I've gone and made three changes to it. But these adjustments make sense when you think about the Toddler Time audience following puppets, rather than a child on a lap following the picture cues.
In the end the animals wake up Farmer Sue, who does go to sleep.  Then everyone wakes her, after which they all fall asleep. Here's where you need a bit of puppet management.  I make sure I have a place to put each puppet after they've done their verse, so I'm ready to bring them back one at a time for this ending.  I don't bother getting them in the right order, just grab what I find, make the sound, and grab the next one.  I don't even worry about slipping them onto my hand if that's awkward...just showing them for the quick sound refrain is fine.  When it end with:  "they fall in a heap!  Asleep!" I gather as many as I can onto my lap.  Having a second bag or a tub to put each puppet in once they've made the first appearance can help here, just so they're all handy for the finale.
The only problem with this book is if you're into early 80's pop music you'll probably walk around while you're setting up Toddler Time singing this song to yourself but mixing it up with the Go-Gos:   "See the Sheep walking down the street / Fall in line just watching their feet / They can't sleep / because the Chicks went "peep" / But they're baa-ing in time / They got the beat, Sheep got the beat, yeah / Sheep got the beat."  Or maybe that's just me....

1 comment:

  1. Sounds cute, thanks for sharing! Now I'm wondering how to turn "Sheep Got the Beat" into a puppet show. :)