Sunday, December 13, 2015

Santa Cat with Signs

Book:  Here Comes Santa Cat  by Deborah Underwood;  Illustrated by Claudia Rueda
Puppets:  2 Cats, Bird, Frog (or substitute)
Props:  Signs (copied from book); Santa Clothes for Cat (just a hat would do); Two Cat Food Cans (or similar); Christmas Lights;  Puppet Stage (optional)
Presenters:   Two
Audience:  Family Storytime  (could be done with one)

We needed a new holiday story to go with our annual puppet show presentation of The Nutcracker, so Brad and I decided to try Here Comes Santa Cat.  In the book, the "narrator" is talking directly to Santa Cat, who responds by holding up signs.  Very clever and fun!  We considered using the projector to show scanned images, but decided the act of Cat physically holding up the signs was really the heart of the book.  So we scanned some pictures, laminated them, and taped them to paint sticks.

For Santa Cat, we just squeezed a puppet cat into a little Santa coat and hat.  Probably just having a hat could work, but the coat did help with this particular puppet.

From in front of the stage, Brad interacted with Santa Cat.  When he asked a question, like "Why won't Santa bring you any presents?" Santa Cat disappeared below, then popped up holding a sign.

The sign is a pie chart comparing "naughty" to "nice," which is pretty funny, but most preschool age kids won't get it just from the visual, so Brad's reaction helped to explain it:  "Oh, you were mostly naughty this year [point to blue part], and only a little bit nice [point to pink part]."  That's the pattern we followed for the most part, but we also mixed it up with some other props besides the signs.  

Santa Cat was silent for the whole thing, except for a couple of bursts of singing, as when he decides to sing Christmas carols and meowl's horribly to the tune of "Jingle Bells."

We also did some substituting.  In the book, Santa Cat is asked how he'll travel like Santa without reindeer, and S. C. tries a rocket.  Lacking a convenient rocket prop, we switched it to a Bullfrog, and the visual of frog and cat slowly hopping across the stage was pretty funny.  Then when Brad reminded Santa Cat that he had to fly. we had a puppet Bird grab S. C., fly above the stage, and drop him.

In another scene from the book, Santa Cat tries going down the chimney....we just skipped that one for brevity and because we couldn't think of a simple way to replicate it.

With the Christmas Tree joke, we used sign and prop.  When asked what else he can do that's nice,
Santa Cat brings up the Christmas Tree sign.  Then disappears below stage, makes crashing noises, shakes the stage, meowling to the tune of "Oh Christmas Tree," and reappears tangled in Christmas lights.

The book's ending is very satisfying, and worked well with puppets.  The narrator decides that Santa Cat has been trying to be nice, so gives him a present.  We used two cans of cat food.  Then a Kitten appears.  There's a little back-and-forth as Kitten shows interest in the cans and Santa Cat fends her off, until finally Santa Cat pushes one of the cans over to Kitten in the true spirit of the holiday.

Overall the story worked well, with the combination of puppets, props, signs, and interaction with Narrator.  The one change we'll make for next year is to make the signs more was a bit hard for people in the back to make them out very well.  We printed them kind of in a hurry, and next time Here Comes Valentine Cat....
we'll play around with contrast.  And if needed, bold up the main lines with a sharpie.  But that's twelve months away.  Meanwhile, we've got two months to figure out another cool book:

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