Saturday, September 21, 2013

Brave Cowboy and His Lullaby

Book:  Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas
Puppets:   Cow, Sheep, Wolf
Props:  Cowboy Hat, Flower, Pillow and/or Blanket
Presenters:  One (also works as a two-person act-out)
Audience:   Toddlers (1-2 years);  also works with Preschool

My Toddler Time group is for ones and twos and I try to choose material accordingly, but every once in a while I just have to try a story that’s more of a 2-3 year old choice.  Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy fits that description.  In the book, Brave Cowboy tries to sing the cows to sleep, but gets scared by things that aren’t really scary:  a flower that he thinks is a stick, for example.  For preschool kids, you can really play up the mock-scariness of the story, but everything for ones and twos has to be pretty gentle.

I put on a cowboy hat to play the role of Brave Cowboy, rather than using a separate puppet.  That way I can control the goofiness and make sure any suspense is always light-hearted.  I used one cow puppet, rather than the pair used in the book.

I sing the lullaby to the tune of “Home on the Range” (the “Oh give me a home…” verse part, not the “Home, home on the range…” part)Sheila and Terri worked that out when they did this story for older kids. I had to write it like this:  "It's time for little cows to rest their heads / It's time for little cows to-go-to-bed," with the dashes in the last bit so I remember to run those together and match the rhythm of the song.   
  The song ends with: “It’s time for little cows to say….” And then instead of a gentle “good night,” Cowboy says:  “OH NO!”  (It’s “EEEK!” in the book, but I’m not sure toddlers get “eek!” so I changed it).  Cow asks what’s wrong and Cowboy points to the puppet bag:  “I think I see a Huge Hairy Spider.”  As Cowboy, I reach in and poke out the top of the flower, so everyone can see it’s not a spider.  Then Cow pulls it out and reassures Cowboy.  Since it's toddlers, I don't act too scared at the suspected spider.  And I reveal the top of the flower for a bit before Cow identifies it for Cowboy.  That keeps the kids one step ahead of Cowboy, which is just right for the story.

The same sequence repeats:  Cowboy sings the song;  Thinks he sees a Large Lumbering Bear;  It’s really a Sheep.  The book also has a bit with a Snake / Stick, but I decided we only needed two Cowboy errors with toddlers, and then could go right into the last bit.

Now Cowboy realizes he’s been overreacting. But when he says that the next thing in the bag might look like a Huge Shaggy Wolf, Cow zips away behind the back.  Cowboy says it’s “probably just a Big Giant Bunny, right Cow?”  Cow sneaks back, looks and says “No, it’s really a Wolf.”  For preschoolers this is a fun, wild moment that you play up a lot, but with this crowd you keep a smile on your face and never have Cowboy be all that scared.|

The ending wraps it all up nicely, as Cowboy sings the song to Cow and Wolf and they finally make it to the closing line of “It’s time for us to say:  Goodnight.”  In the end, this one worked the way slightly-too-old-for-Toddlers books often do:  They enjoyed it, even though they might not have fully grasped the humor of a Cowboy who claims to be brave but really isn't.  But...there's a storyteller in a cowboy hat, some puppets doing silly things, and a nice little song, though, and you can't go wrong with all that.

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