Friday, February 15, 2013

Moose, Zebra, and 25 Letters

Book:   Z is for Moose  by Kelly Bingham, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Puppets & Props:  Zebra and Moose puppets for sure.  Plus an alphabet's worth of puppets, props, and/or pictures
Presenters:  Two
Audience:   Family Storytime, but also will use for school-age

When I first read Z is for Moose I had two questions:   #1:  Could this mean another Zelinsky Caldecott?  and #2:  Can we do this in Storytime?  #1 was a no, it turns out, but I think we worked out #2.  For Family Storytime this week Sheila and I did a puppet show version.  Our theme was "Friends," and there's really not much evidence of friendship for 25/26th of the book, but when you're excited about a new picture book, you squeeze it into a theme anyway you can (see future post about how It's a Tiger works for "Reptiles.")
One of the many virtues of the book is that it has real changes of pace and plot shifts, even though it's an alphabet book.  Those shifts helped us construct the puppet show. 

Regular Alphabet Book Beginning:   Sheila was Zebra, announcing the alphabet from the upper part of the stage.  I was Moose below, with props for A through Q ready to go.  The first three letters just appear briefly on the stage. 

Moose Barges In:    Moose pops out for Duck to start the funny part, inserting himself into most letters leading up to M.  Many of these work just great as puppet show sight gags.  Hat appears on stage, then rises higher to reveal the Moose is wearing it.  An Ice Cream carton rises into view, then Moose pops out of it (through the unseen cut-out bottom).  We did a few letter substitutions that led to better puppet show antics.  For example, Moose popping out of Kangaroo's pouch is perfect in the book, but we opted to velcro him to a Kite and had that fly above the stage as he cries "Is it myyyyyy turrnnnnnn?" 

Moose Gets Mad:  Just when the audience thinks they get where it's going, Mouse shows up for M, and Moose is not happy. A few beats of silence when Mouse pops up accentuates the surprise, then Moose loudly enters to protest the unexpected choice for M.  Then the next series of letters has some good old fashioned puppet show violence.  Moose tosses Owl off stage;  Moose battles with Pirate.  (Another substitution from the book, since we could do more with a puppet pirate than we could with a pretend pie....a real pie could have been fun, but too messy).  Queen primly announces that it's time to end all this nonsense....and Moose charges, antlers-first, and mows her down.

Zebra Shifts Strategy:   Now Zebra presents objects R through Y rather than Moose.  For R and S Zebra uses a picture of Ring and Snake, rather than the real things.  We just made versions of each picture, one with Moose's  additions (he draws antlers on the objects, crosses out the correct words and writes "Moose" instead).  Moose snatches the good version from Zebra, shows his big red crayon, goes below, switches pictures, and gives Zebra back the  crayoned version.  After that Zebra and Moose interact from the top curtain of the stage:  They have a tug-of-war with Truck; and Zebra bops Moose on the head with Umbrella.

Moose Gets Sad:  Just when the audience is anticipating what the next clash will be, Moose stops coming out and cries from behind stage instead as Zebra brings out V, W, X, and Y without incident.  It's neat to hear the change in the audience from behind stage...they get a little quiet as they realize, with Moose, that it's almost over and he's not going to be in the story.  

Happy Ending:  Zebra talks sad Moose into coming out for the last letter.  Moose appears below, with Zebra above at first; then joins him up top for the conclusion:  "Z is for.....Zebra's Friend:  Moose!"  Very satisfying. 

One obvious challenge is finding the 26 items to fill out the alphabet, and we managed to find puppets or props to do the trick.  We substituted a few just because they just worked better for a puppet stage presentation (see K and P above, plus Net for Needle and Vase for Violin.  It would have worked fine to substitute a picture for several of the items, especially the ones that Moose doesn't interact with that much. 

Puppet and prop management was pretty easy considering how much stuff we used.  I just kept Moose on one hand the whole time and used the other to bring up props and puppets, most of which didn't really have to do much.  And remembering which one comes next is as easy as abc.    

I still think Z is for Moose would have been a fine Caldecott choice, but am very glad that it makes such a good puppet show.  As for the equally excellent book that did win the Caldecott:  big fish; little fish; hat...there must be something we can do with that one.

No comments:

Post a Comment