Book: The Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort. Illustrated by C. Brian Karas
Puppets: Seal, Baby, plus a handful of Other Animals
Audience: Toddler Time (1 and 2 year olds)
I always do one puppet story in my Toddler Time sessions and sometimes I have a tendency to try to squeeze a 2-3 year old story into this session for 1 and 2 year olds. Partly because there aren't enough really great 1-2 year old books that adapt for puppets, but also because I just like a little bit more of a story. Something like Squeak-A-Lot or What Will Fat Cat Sit On is just a little more fun to tell than Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?. And really, those slightly more involved stories end up working well, but I have to admit, the simple stuff is really reliable for this age group.
Seals on the Bus fits that category. I usually tell it just after singing (or having Raffi sing) The Wheels on the Bus. Then I introduce the book: "There's a song about wheels on the bus; what if there were seals on a bus? So they get the idea that it's a take-off. (I mean, Weird Al is always funnier when you know the song he's parodying). The picture book is very clever, with Brian Karas' illustrations adding a kind of storyline to the progression of animal sounds....but for puppets, I stick to the progression of animal sounds. Which makes it a simple series of Pop-Outs. First it's Seal, then really any animals you want to bring out....I don't stick to what's in the book.
After we've all sung: "the seals on the bus go Arf Arf Arf," I kind of stop to build up to the next animal, and provide a clue or two: "Now we know there are seals on the bus. I wonder what other animals are on the bus? [peek in the puppet bag]. Oh! This next animal has a long tail...and eats bananas. [pop out Monkey and all sing]: The monkeys on the bus go eee! eee! eee! (or whatever your preferred monkey sound is). So this sets up a nice pattern with some guessing, some vocabulary, and lots of participation. The puppetry is easy to manage, since puppets don't even interact with each other. Just pop out, make the sound, and back in the bag.
I always like to include a Giraffe for change of pace: "the Giraffe on the bus goes..."[finger to lips and say nothing]. And I end it with the Driver on the Bus: "Now it's time for the driver. Who do you think the driver will be?...[anticipation builds....peek in the puppet bag]. Oh! This is not the driver I expected!" [anticipation builds even more....and out pops: a Baby!] I don't know why, but the idea of a baby driving a bus (and saying "Waa, waa, waa"] is just really funny. And a good way to end it.
My one regret with this story is that I don't have a Pigeon puppet. But it's probably just as well, because then I wouldn't be able to resist making it: "The pigeon on the bus says: 'Please let me drive the bus! I'll be your best friend! I'll give you five bucks! I have feelings too!...'" and on and on. Which would amuse me quite a bit and maybe a parent or two, but those toddlers just wouldn't get it.