Saturday, May 2, 2015

I Elephant, 1 Piggie, 2 Birds, 3 People

Book:  There Is a Bird on Your Head  by Mo Willems
Puppets:   Two Birds
Props:   Nest, Egg, Baby Birds (3), Elephant Hat (or similar), Piggie Hat (or similar)
Presenters:  3
Audience:   K-2, Preschool

It's been nine(!) months since I posted on this blog, but I haven't really quit.  The usual suspects are to blame:  procrastination,
laziness, and their various relatives, but I choose to put the blame on computer Scrabble, which, as it happens, I purchased for $2.99 just a week or two after my last blog entry, and I'm afraid that's too close to be mere coincidence.  It's not like I'm addicted, and really I can quit any time I want, it's just that I choose not to.  So for now my plan is to get back to blog entries with an unambitious (but attainable) two times a month, and as for Scrabble....well I don't think anyone needs to know how many Scrabble games I play in a month.  

I'll jump back into it with yet another Elephant & Piggie.  We did There Is a Bird on Your Head for a K-2 Book Adventure program on "Award Winners" (it won the 2008 Geisel Medal) and the repeated it for Family Storytime.  We acted it out with me as Gerald and Sheila as Piggie (as usual, but one of these days we're going to switch roles, challenging stereotypes of gender and height, just for fun) and Terri with the Bird puppets.  

 Sheila and I sat, while Terri moved the first Bird onto my head.  She didn't talk for the birds, but gave little chirping whistles that were just right.  As usual with a Mo Willems, we stuck to the word from the book very closely.  When Gerald first learns there's a bird on his head, I jump off the chair and run away, while Terri takes the first Bird behind our backdrop.  Then I return and she comes back with two birds.

Then there's a progression as the birds go to work, while Gerald gets increasingly worried about what's going on up there.  They bring out a Nest.  Then an Egg.  Then Chicks.  In the book it's three eggs, and although we do have three plastic eggs, its too hard for a puppeteer to manage them along with two birds and a nest.  So Terri showed one egg, and Sheila stood up, looked into the Nest, and counted three.  We do have three baby birds.  Actually they're three finger puppets connected to that nest (it's a Folkmanis nest that they don't make any more but you can find it on ebay and elsewhere).  So Terri kind of pulled them up so the audience could see them peeking out.

As with most Elephant and Piggie's, you have to take your time with the dialogue and don't really need to overdo it.  The characters and pace is so strong that the kids totally get what's going on and why it's funny.   Piggie finally suggests that Gerald simply ask the birds to leave, then Sheila exits.  The birds do leave, as Terri follows her behind the backdrop.

 That sets up the finale, where Gerald calls Piggie back to thank her for the suggestion, and she re-enters with both birds on her head.  The visual effect of her showing up with the birds works well, but Terri had the good idea to add one more line.  In the book, Piggie closes the book with "you are welcome," and her perturbed look tells readers all they need to know.  Sheila's perturbed look is equally effective, but she also says:  " there a bird on my head?" which circles back to the opening line and makes it clear that this is the end.  Okay, so we messed with Mo's words just a little bit, but the transition from page to act-out sometimes just needs a bit of that, even with a perfect book....

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