Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Lion and the Mouse with surf music, Bach, and the Brothers Johnson

Book:  The Lion and the Mouse  by Jerry Pinkney 
Puppets:  none
Props:  none
Technology:  Projector with scanned illustrations + music clips
Audience:  Family Storytime (mostly age 3-7)
Presenters:  one

Jerry Pinkney's version of The Lion and the Mouse has so much potential in storytime settings and we've used it with several variations.  We scan the images to project so they can be seen in our large storytimes.  We've done it with barebones narration and simple perscussion to give it rhythm.  Another time we had a local string quartet provide live musical accompaniment.  For our most recent version I went back to one of my favorites standbys:  pop music of the 50s, 60s and 70s.  I picked six intrumentals from that time period, and put short clips of each to capture, as well as I could, the mood of the story.

For the first part, where day is breaking and we see the lons on the savanah and the mouse waking up, I used 1976's Tomorrow" by the Brothers Johnson (they're best known for "Strawberry Letter #23," "I'll Be Good to You," and "Get the Funk Out Ma Face," but their album cuts were nice too).  I skipped the intro bit (0:00 - 0:22) and went to about 1:11.  It ends on the page where Mouse first hears the Owl. 

Then Mouse gets chased by the owl, so you need something a little faster.  The first 46 seconds of 1963's "Pipeline" by the Chantays fit nicely, even though a mouse running on a savanah is about as far as surfers as you can get.  The clip has a nice little mini-fade that we timed to match when Mouse is on Lion's mane, but doesn't realize it.

To catch the big moment when Lion rises up and grabs Mouse, we went with "Out of Limits" by the Marketts, from 1963.  It starts with a cool "Twilight Zone"-ish piece that's seems just right.  (A little too just-right for Rod Serling, creator of "The Twillight Zone," who sued the Marketts for copying it).  We had this one fade out at about the 0:55 mark.  In the book, that's where Mouse has been released and Lion strides off triumphantly.

When the illustrations shift to the Hunters, we went with "Peter Gunn" by Duane Eddy from 1959.  It was the theme from a detective show that ran from 1958-1961...the music on the show was done by Henry Mancini, but we went with Duane Eddy instead.  It has a great guitar opening to announce the Hunters, then a saxophone that's just right for bad guys.  The first 0:55 worked about right, starting with the Hunters' jeep and ending with Lion suspended in the net.

For the rescue, we played "Walk Don't Run" by the Ventures from 1960, (often considered the first major hit in the surf music genre).  A nice drum opening transitions to the mouse neatly, then the guitar part runs through Mouse's chewing of the ropes, and has a nice break at 1:05 to match the final thread.   

When Lion is finally free, we jump forward to 1972 for "Joy" by Apollo 100 (or you could say we're going back to the 1700's, since this was inspired by a piece by Johann Sebastian Bach).  We skipped the first 0:24 and faded out at about the 1:09 point.  This has a different sound than the early 60s stuff in the middle, but it seems appropriately triumphant, and it fades as the two families walk off across the endpages.  

With a music/scan version like this, it can take some time to get it all together.  Messing around with songs, downloading them into your PowerPoint file, and getting the timings and the fading to work pretty well takes some time.  But after you get it right (or as close to right as I ever strive for), the actual presentation is just introducing the book and clicking on "run slide show."  When we played it in Storytime, the music really did help pace the story, but it didn't interfere so much that the kids weren't following the visuals.  So the book was still the main focus...but if a few families leave storytime with a bit of the Ventures or Bach rattling around in their head, I'm okay with that.  

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