Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Creepy Cardboard Carrots

Book:  Creepy Carrots  by Aaron Reynolds, Illustrated by Peter Brown
Props:  Big Cutout Carrots, Mirror, Bunny Ears, Bedtime stuff
Puppets:  None
Presenters:  2 or 3, plus 2 child volunteers
Technology:  Scans from book projected
Audience:  K-2

When I was halfway through my first reading of Creepy Carrots I was sure it could be a fun puppet show:  Stick puppet carrots sneaking up behind would be great!  But when Roscoe Rabbit builds a giant fence at the end I couldn't really figure out how to make it work, so I gave up the idea.  A month or two later Sheila thought it would be just right for our summer Preschool Stories & Science program, with the "Dig Into Reading" theme and all.  She figured it out:  we could to act it out, add some volunteers from the audience, and fill in selected scenes with some scanned illustrations from the book.  We decided to try it for our K-2 Book Adventure Summer Reading preview, which also used "Dig Into Reading."

We used three staff, with me narrating, Sheila as Roscoe, and Terri as Creepy Carrot #1.  Creepy Carrots #2 and #3 were child volunteers.  Our volunteer Ruth made some great cutout carrots and the three just held them in front of them as they creeped around:

For Roscoe's carrot field, we projected the illustration from the book on the screen, then had a table covered with brown butcher paper at the bottom of the screen, sort of extending it into 3-d.  And we sprinkled a bunch of real carrots in there, so Sheila could hop past, stop, and take a bunch. 

When it came time for the Creepy Carrots to appear, Terri led the kids in the refrain "tunktunktunk" and they just followed her, appearing from behind our backdrop, then ducking back just before Sheila turned around to see them.  The kids rarely stayed all the way hidden, but that was fine.

When Sheila returned to the field to see if the Creepy Carrots were real, we showed the regular carrot scene again, but when she turned her back on it, we clicked for the carrots to appear:

Then as she decides with relief that "creepy carrots aren't real," we did a "grow" animation click so they got even bigger. 

We combined the animation and "live" carrots for the other scenes where Roscoe sees the carrots.  When he looks at the window, for example, we showed the illustration, while the three live rabbits  were showing themselves at the side of the screen:

We put the next window scene, which is on the opposite page of the book, "underneath" the first illustration, then had one "fade out" while the other "faded in," using PowerPoint animation effects again.  And as the non-carrot window appeared, the live carrots snuck back behind the backdrop.

In the end Roscoe builds a fortress around the carrot field so they can't get out.  And it's exactly what the Creepy Carrots were hoping for, since now he can't get in to pick them.  For this, we showed the scan of Roscoe's fortress, then the scene of the celebrating carrots, and had our three live carrots come out and celebrate too.  Much better than whatever I might have come up with for a puppet show.

Overall, the combination of screen and act out worked well.  While the scans on the screen let us share the excellent illustrations, it was the three cardboard carrots interacting with Roscoe that really made it come alive for the audience.  The one disappointing piece was the lighting.  The orange coloring on the book and on the computer screen has a great glowi-ness to it, but that only shows up on screen when it's dark in the room...and we needed enough light to see the acting out guys.  We found a middle ground that worked well enough, though. 
And the cut-out carrots were great.  When Terri and I visited some kindergarten classes to promote the event we brought the carrots along, even though we performed a different story for them.  I think just showing them the carrots and showing the book cover might have been all we needed to do....     

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