Sunday, May 25, 2014

We Are in a Book on a Screen

Book:  We Are in a Book!  by Mo Willems
Puppets:  None
Props:  Elephant hat, Piggie ears (or similar)
Technology:   Scanned word bubbles and projector
Presenters:  Two
Audience:   K-2

We've done plenty of Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie stories at our library, both as two-person act-outs and as one-person puppet stories (including I Am Going, I Broke My TrunkI'm a FrogLet's Go for a Driveand Watch Me Throw the Ball).  But I always just dismissed my favorite E & P book, We Are in a Book, as not suitable for Storytime.  Then I learned that Rick Samuelson of Washington County Cooperative Library System (Rick can be seen in WCCLS's excellent Fingerplay Fun Youtube pages) had adapted it as a stage puppet show (neatly re-titled as "We Are in a Puppet Show").  I never got to see Rick's show, but it got me thinking again about the book, and finally Sheila and I got a chance to do it for one of our K-2 Book Adventure programs.

Using PowerPoint and our Projector and Screen was the key.  We made a series of slides to replicate the book.  Each slide has a frame, with a page number down on the bottom right.  And clicks make the word bubbles appear.  So all we had to do was read from the word bubbles.  Which actually isn't that easy, because they're behind you, but a quick glance was all we needed.  (Sure, memorizing would have been even better, but sometimes there's just not time for that).  

When the book begins, E and P are just on the page, not realizing they are in a book:

Then Gerald looks out at the audience and tells Piggie that they are being watched.  We had some fun with that, stepping away from the screen and towards the audience, then back against the screen, trying to match the great scene in the book where Piggie looks out at the readers:

Then we realize we're in a book:

After that, the two have fun by getting the readers to say "banana."  This was the one part I wasn't sure would work.  I wondered if the kids would read all of the word bubbles out loud, so that when "banana" appeared on the screen the joke wouldn't work so well.  But it was fine.  A couple kids were reading aloud most of the way, but when Sheila/Piggie introduced the plan and said "Here I go...," and the word "BANANA" appeared in a word bubble, everyone said it.  As Gerald says:  "so funny!"
Then things take a different meta-turn when Piggie realizes the book will end.  In the book, Piggie appears to peel back the bottom right-hand pages to find out what the last page number is.  That worked fine in our version:  Sheila peeked behind the bottom corner of the screen, where the page numbers would be if it were a book.  

Then Gerald starts fretting about the book ending too fast as each page turns:  

And here's how the real corresponding page looks:

It all finally ends with Piggie's fine idea of having Gerald ask the kids to "read us again."  Which fit neatly into our program, since with our K-2 Book Adventure events we always have multiple copies of the books we feature, and the kids really did go check those out.  And read them, we hope.

The only problem with this way of doing the story is that we couldn't use it when we went out to schools to promote the event, as we do each month.  We really needed the word bubbles and mock-page for this one.   No problem, though:  we just substituted another E & P: I'm a Frog, and you don't need anything for that (though pig ears and elephant hat do help).

As for We Are in a Book, in the Slate Book Review, David Plotz says that this book "is arguably the most disturbing book published in America since The Road."  Sheila and I talked about it, though, and we decided that it's challenging enough to adapt Mo Willems....we'll pass on Cormac McCarthy for now. 


  1. I LOVE THIS! "... So funny!"
    And this is one of my all time favorite books, too!
    There is a fun (and free) guided drawing activity on my blog that goes along with Mo Willems' elephant and piggy characters, if you ever want to do something like that with your little ones.
    Where are you located? I would really love to come watch your story time someday!
    Heidi Butkus

  2. Thanks! This was a fun one. The drawing activity looks fun, and your pinterest page has a bunch of other cool ideas ( We're in Wilsonville, OR, ten miles south of Portland. Just off highway 5,,.