Monday, February 28, 2011

The Best Kind of Sneetch

Story: "The Sneetches" by Dr. Seuss
Props: Many green stars, 1 Star On Machine, 1 Star Off Machine, ball, marshmallow on a stick
Participants: 3 tellers, 6 kids
Audience: K-2nd

I’ve done several Dr. Seuss stories over the years, but never could come up with a good way to do The Sneetches, one of my all-time favorites. Turns out having three people makes all the difference. Terri was a star belly Sneetch, Sheila was plain belly, and each of them had three kids from the audience in their groups. I narrated and also got to be Sylvester McMonkey McBean. Using a narrator for Seuss is nice, since you have to get the words just right and precise memorization is tough. So the Sneetches were free to look snooty (star bellies) or left out (plain bellies) and lead the kids to follow suit, and the narrator can read.

Sheila rigged up a couple of card tables to serve as the Star On and Star Off Machines. With butcher paper in front, a bunch of gadgety things (dryer hose, toy robot, etc.) on top, and appropriately placed "in" and "out" signs they had the flavor of Seuss’ illustrations without attempting to duplicate them. And as the story says, the things really worked. The kids followed Sheila or Terri as they crawled under the table, then either grabbed a cut out star (Star On Machine) or dropped the star they had (Star Off Machine) into a basket. When we reached the point of: "off again on again in again out again, through the machines they raced round and about again," it was pretty fun. I’m not sure all of the kids were holding (or not holding) a star on their bellies at the right time, but it seemed like just the right level of controlled chaos.

The kids and audience settled down enough at the end to hear the satisfying conclusion, that “no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.” I liked that we were able to stick to the words of the story, add just enough visual elements (stars + machines) without spending a ton of time, and involve kids in the telling. This is a Seuss story that’s a little less well-known than some of his others, so it was nice to introduce it to so many kids (we had about 100). The story was part of our K-2 Book Adventures: “Dr. Seuss Celebration.”

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Where are Thumbkin, Pointer, and Ducky?

Fingerplay: Where is Thumbkin
Props: 5 pairs of puppets
"Where is Thumbkin" is one of my all-time favorite fingerplays. I do it the traditional way with a few add-ins for fun: When Tall Man comes out he has a big deep voice (always a crack-up to watch the expressions of three year olds when they make that voice); Pinkie has a high squeaky voice; They all say “Zoop!” as they run away; The finale is “Where is Everybody” so they all come out, and finally conclude with bows (fingers bending), kisses (fingers touching) and hugs (fingers folded). And I haven't changed this for years. No reason to mess with something that fun, I figured.

Then Shannon, who does our Baby Times, got the idea to have puppets come out instead of fingers, and it works great. And best of all, I can still go through the whole finger production, as above. Then use puppets as a follow-up: “It was fun to see those fingers meet each other; now let’s try it with animals.” I’ll have two puppets of the same animal in my bag. They don’t have to be identical, just the same animal. I show the first one, so they’ll know what to sing, and then: “Where is Ducky, Where is Ducky? Here I am! [1 duck pops out] Here I am! [the other duck pops out]. Then the whole “How are you today” business. Which works really well, because the animals interact in the same way that the fingers just did. I’ve tried the ending bit two ways: Either: “Run away….Quack!” (instead of “Zoop!”). Or skip “Run away” altogether and it’s: “Quack, quack, quack…Zoop!” I think I’m leaning towards the second way so far.

One way I haven’t tried yet is to not have matching animals. So it could be: “Where is Ducky?....” and “Where is Kitten?...” and they “quack” and “meow” at each other. Could be a nice twist. I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever been tired of Thumbkin, but it is always nice when you’re able to something new with something you’ve done the same way for so long. “The More We Get Together,” on the other hand, which is my opening song for Toddler Time, now that I get tired of. Sure, Bear sits on my lap and bounces along, but there must be something else I can do to puppetize it…

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Animals, Clothing, and Google Images

Book: Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judy and Ron Barrett
Technology: Scanner, Projector
Presenters: 1 storyteller
Audience: Family Storytime

This book is a sure-fire storytime hit that I’ve used for years, but the illustrations won’t carry for our 100+ Family Storytime groups. In the past I’ve pondered about how to do this with puppets or stuffed animals, but the prospect of sewing pants for a stuffed chicken, overalls for a moose, and all the rest is way too daunting, even if I had great sewing skills instead of none at all. It seemed like a natural for scanning and projecting, though. I think doing the pictures straight would have worked fine, just replicating and going through the book on a larger scale. But with the projector, you can’t help but think: what else can we do? And it turned out there was something.

Each page turn of the book shows an animal wearing clothing that is clearly wrong in a funny way: The pig in a coat and tie (“too messy”), the snake slithering out of too big pants…. So I decided to preface each of those with a photo of a real animal, then a photo of the type of clothing we’re about to see on it. So it went like this: “If a snake [click to photo of snake] wore clothes [click to photo of pajama bottoms], it would….lose them!” [click to funny illustration from the book]. It built up the anticipation in a different way and gave me a little more to play with as narrator in terms of timing. I felt it was true to the spirit of the book, and the scanned illustrations were still the punch line each time.

It was pretty simple to find workable pictures with Google images. I tried to get clothes that were somewhat similar to the ones in the book, but it wasn’t crucial to match that close…they still got the joke. Now I find myself thinking about projection possibilities when I evaluate books for possible storytime use....but I still think about puppets first.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Shoe Shopping for Pete the Cat

Story: Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin, Illustrated by James Dean
Props: Shoes of several colors; 4 boxes; Kitty ears optional
Presenters: One
Audience: Toddler Time (1 and 2 year olds)

I was introduced to Pete the Cat at an early literacy training presented by Heather McNeil in Bend, Oregon. She read the book to a group of about 30, and I’m guessing at least 25 of us went back, placed a hold, and used it with kids at the first opportunity. For me it was a Toddler Time session, and even though I think the book will go even better with 3-5 year olds, it was a hit. But it was a hollow triumph. Deep down I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied until I could do the story without the book. All I needed was to get my hands on five pairs of identical shoes in different colors.

My first thought was Crocs, because they can slip on and off and because I could conceivably fit my size 13 feet into pairs a few sizes smaller. I told my wife Tina, who spends a lot of time cruising the bins at Goodwill, and she kept her eyes open, but with no luck. And it turns out there was a bit of urgency. All four of us storytellers at my library love the book, and since we rotate as presenters, I wanted to make sure that the first time Pete the Cat was used it was during one of my weeks. I know, we’re a team, it’s all about collaboration, etc., etc….but I wanted to do that book! Sheila and I had a “Getting Dressed” theme coming up, which would be perfect; meanwhile, Brad suggested that “Sweet Treats,” which was his theme a few weeks later, could work since Pete steps in some berries. So I had to track down some shoes fast.

I ditched the Crocs plan and went to online shopping, and although we found some possibilities, nothing was cheap enough until Tina saved the day. She found some white “hotel slippers” for $2.99 each (from Cotton I paid extra for expedited shipping and hoped that they would arrive in time for our November 16th Getting Dressed storytime. It was a tense few days, with several mid-day phone calls from work to home to see if the mail had come, and were the shoes there, and the answer was always….no. Sadly I forgot about Veteran’s Day which pushed the delivery day forward…the shoes arrived on November 16th, while I was at work. I briefly considered driving the 30 miles both ways to pick them up, but no…the paint wouldn’t be dry.

It worked out fine in the end, though. Tina fabric-painted the shoes red, blue, and brown, leaving two white. My heels stick out over the end, but that's no problem. And I used them in Toddler Time the next week. As Pete (with kitty ears) in white shoes, I sang the little song (“I love my white shoes…”), then at “Oh no!” I stepped into a box with red paper and a picture of strawberries. The slippers were easy to slip off and I stepped into the red ones that were in the box already for the next song: “I love my red shoes…” And the same for Blueberries and Mud. The only tricky part was putting the boxes up on a stool, so all could see, and not falling off. I considered actually using wet slippers for “I love my wet shoes…,” but decided just to call them wet. For preschoolers, I might consider getting them wet with a squirt bottle, but for ones and twos better judgment prevailed.

And to my credit, I did offer the shoes to Brad and Sheila for their “Sweet Treats” theme, but they went with other books, probably because they just wanted to be nice to me. But now I’m looking at what’s coming up in winter and spring. Nothing really has a place for Pete in our Family Storytime, but our K-2 Book Adventure in April is “Cats and Dogs”…it’s an older crowd, but I don’t think you’re ever too old to watch a cat step in stuff, wear colorful shoes, and sing a silly song. Meanwhile, I’ve made a note to myself in the schedule file: “Fall Storytimes: include Cats or Getting Dressed; Assign self to either or both; Don’t forget Pete!”

For another way to present Pete the Cat, go here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monster bedtime with scans, drawings, and sound effects

Story: Go to Bed Monster by Natasha Wing; Illustrated by Sylvie Kantorovitz
Equipment: Scanner, Projector, White Board, Microphone
Props: Water and Glass
Presenters: Two
Audience: Family Storytime (mostly 3-6 years)
Terri and I did this story as part of our “Bedtime” Family Storytime, but the adaptation was developed a year ago, mostly by Brad with input from Terri, we think (with collaboration sometimes it’s hard to sort out). This was a fun and sort of different experience for me. I had no part in developing the story, just stepped in to a set role…and had a great time. In the story, a Girl draws a picture that turns into a Monster (who’s more silly than scary). She tries to put the Monster to bed, but he keeps coming up with excuses, until finally she reads him a book.

We brought it to life using projections of illustrations, drawings, and sound effects. First Terri, as the Girl, draws the Monster on our big white board. Then the scanned Monster appears, projected right next to her drawing. Terri interacts with the Monster on the screen. Monster makes growling, grunting sounds, which is me offstage and behind a screen, very close to the microphone. When the Girl says “go to bed, Monster,” Monster has an excuse each time. He says “CHASE;” we project that scene of the monster from the book; and Terri runs around as if it’s a game of tag. She draws a bed, hoping to get him to sleep; and then it’s: “HUNGRY!” with a new scan of Monster. Terri draws food, and Monster makes munching sounds. I get to burp into the microphone to finish that segment. * [for more on burping, see below]

So there’s this neat interplay of drawing, projected images, monster sounds, and the girl interacting with words and action. We use our whole big whiteboard to display each image of Monster, so they stay up there in sequence, rather than one disappearing when the next one arrives. Brad carefully spaced out the images to fit the screen area and to leave room for the drawings in between.

The highlight (for me at least) is when Monster’s excuse is: “POTTY!” So we project that illustration with Monster squatting; Terri draws a toilet in the proper place; and I dribble water into a glass while holding the microphone close up to make that familiar sound. I couldn’t see the audience, but it was fun to listen as they gradually realized that yes, that is the sound they’re hearing. As the Girl, Terri finally picks up a copy of Goodnight Moon, begins reading, and Monster snores.

I never would have come up with this myself, but I hope that seeing it work will open my imagination to creative possibilities like this. It’s very energizing to mix presentation forms within one story, and this book was a just right candidate for this kind of adaptation. When Terri first described it to me it didn’t really make sense, but once I saw the projected images it all came together. So I hope the description above is complete enough…if not leave a comment and I’ll try more. Other stories from this "Bedtime" theme: That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown and The Squeaky Door.

* I remember that as a kid of 7 or so, learning to burp at will seemed like a pretty important skill to have, and I took the opportunity to hone that talent and display it fairly frequently. What I don’t recall is anyone besides Joey, my best friend who taught me the trick (or did I teach him? I said above, with collaboration it all gets blurred) being suitably impressed. And I definitely don’t remember anyone saying, “you keep that up Steven, it will be a valuable skill in the workplace someday.” Despite that lack of encouragement, I carried on, and last week I reaped the rewards once again. Plus...I get another chance this week: I’m doing Yertle the Turtle.

The Squeaky Door with two people

Story: The Squeaky Door by Margaret Read MacDonald, Illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma
Puppets: Cat, Dog, Big Frog (or substitute any big animal)
Props: Tool box, wd-40
Presenters: two
Audience: Family Storytime (mostly 3-6 years)

I heard Laura Simms tell “The Squeaky Door” on one of her tapes 20 or so years ago and have told it in various ways ever since. Mostly I’ve done it with puppets. In the story, a little boy is scared of the squeaky door at his grandma’s house and each time he calls for her she brings an animal in to sleep with him: cat, then dog, then horse (or whatever I decide to add). So there’s really not a lot of puppetry involved, just adding them on top of each other. The real strength of the story is the strong pattern which easily elicits participation from the kids and the fun interplay between Grandma and the Little Boy. There are great refrains: the boy saying “Oh, no! Not meeeee!” each time Grandma asks if he’ll be scared; and Grandma’s increasingly harried “You’re driving me crazy!” each time he calls out again.

For our “Bedtime” Family Storytime, Terri and I decided to act it out, and the story’s a natural for that too. But it surprised me how it took a little more development than I thought it would. I told Terri how I’ve told it, then we both looked at the picture book version by Margaret Read MacDonald. Her telling is great, and as you would expect from her, especially good for adapting as an oral story. But there were a few minor changes from the way I learned it. Which meant that when Terri and I came together to practice it, we had a few of MRM’s elements in there. I thought that would be fine and I could easily adapt, but no. I discovered that I was so set on my way that even the small changes never felt quite right. We finally got it together when Terri suggested we just both use the words I’ve always used, since it was a new story to her. That finally worked and we were able to have fun with the tale. It was still a bit different from the way I’ve done it. Terri played around with the puppets from behind the backdrop, which was a fun touch, and she has a great way of being “in” the story, but at the same time sharing asides with the grown-ups in the audience, kind of bringing them into the Grandma’s point of view, as if to say: “we’ve all been driven crazy by our kids, haven’t we?”

We used a cat and dog puppet for the first two animals, then brought in a huge stuffed frog for the last one (which breaks the bed). Grandma's tool box and a can of WD-40 were the only other props we needed.

We repeat the same storytime four times in a week, which means you get it just right by the third time usually. But sometimes by the time the last one rolls around you’re a little tired of it. So we decided to switch roles with this story for our fourth performance. I’m not sure if it was better or worse for the audience with me as Grandpa and Terri as Little Girl, but it was a nice change of pace for the tellers.

We also shared That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown and Go to Bed, Monster during our Bedtime Storytime.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Big, Fat, Out-of-Print Worm

Story: The Big Fat Worm by Nancy Van Laan; Illustrated by Marasusina Russo
Puppets: Worm (or finger), Bird, Cat, Dog. Elephant optional
Presenters: one
Audience: Toddler Time (1 & 2 years)
Link to "Storytelling with Puppets" video demo

This book has been out of print for a while, and at first glance that doesn’t seem like a big deal: pictures are plain and simple, words are repetitive, and the story is predictable. But when you share it with kids, all of the virtues come through: rhythmic language, playful characters, and a very satisfying circularity. The book also worked great for beginning readers too. But although the book isn’t in print (A new paperback runs about $50 on Amazon) the story can live on with puppets. You only need a few, and it’s an easy one to tell even if you haven’t used puppets a lot. The words are mostly directly from Van Laan, but easy to remember:

“A big fat worm crawled out of the ground and he crawled all around and he looked all around…and along came a big fat bird. And the big fat bird said ‘Hi worm.’ And the big fat worm said ‘Hi bird.’ And the big fat bird said ‘I’m going to eat you up.’ And the big fat worm said ‘Oh no, you’re not.’ And the big fat bird said ‘Oh yes, I am.’ And the worm disappeared back into the ground. And along came a big fat cat."

The exact same pattern of words repeats, but now with the cat threatening the bird, who flies away. Then it’s a dog threatening the cat. Finally they all go back home and the bird spots “something big, something fat, something round. And the big fat worm popped out of the ground. And the big fat bird said ‘Hi worm.’” The sing-song rhythm of the words and the tight pattern makes this an easy story for very young kids to hold in their heads, and they totally get it when it all starts over again at the end.

The puppetry piece is easy and fun. I just use my finger for the worm, plus a bird, cat, and dog puppet. With the dialogue, the speaking puppet moves towards the other. Then on the reply the motion reverses. So at “Hi worm!” and “I’m going to eat you up,” Bird is a bit higher and moving towards back-pedaling Worm. But at “Hi bird!” and “Oh no, you’re not,” Worm gets the upper hand, so moves higher and towards back-pedaling Bird. The puppet motions visually replicate the give and take of the conversations, so it really works neatly. A quick bit of chasing, or jumping towards (but just missing) the prey at the end of each segment adds a bit more fun action.

I’ve used this often with Toddler Storytimes: it’s one of those where the story elements are simple enough for a two-year-old to completely comprehend, but also active enough to be very involving. It also works fine with preschoolers, though with that group I usually tack on one more animal to add a bit of silliness: “along came a big fat…elephant!” It’s also a great story for narrative skills; you can tell it once and kids can remember the basics of the story well enough to tell it themselves.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Three Pigs x 3

Story: The Three Little Pigs
Puppets: Wolf, Pig (for #2)
Props: Assorted Instruments (for #3)
Equipment: Scanner and Projector (for #1)
Presenters: One / Two / One plus kids
Audience: Family Storytime (mostly 3-6 years)

Our Family Storytimes usually feature two tellers doing three stories around one theme. But I recently heard about how the Oklahoma City Storytelling Festival has an event where several tellers each tell their own version of the same story and thought…why not? So last week we did “One Story, Three Ways,” with Brad, Sheila, Terri, and myself all presenting.

Planning and deciding on how to tell took some collaboration. First we talked about how to even interpret the “three ways” idea. Should we do use variations of the story (like Trivas’ Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf) or tell the same basic story using different presentation styles. After lots of brainstorming and some discussion around “why are we doing this again?” we wound up with: basic story each time, different ways of presenting. We wanted to show how a simple, well known story can be new and fresh depending on who's telling and how. And to highlight the subtle power of folktales, which endure as they are reshaped and retold through centuries. Plus we wanted to challenge ourselves a bit, and have a lot of fun as tellers.

I kind of cheated because I already had my story, a puppet version that I’ve done way too many times over the years but I never get tired of. Brad had several ideas he was looking at, but waited to see what Sheila and Terri would come up with in order to see what was the best fit. Sheila and Terri talked about a drawing version for a while, played with combining drawing and projection, but then settled on a two-person telling, with mistakes, aided by projection.

So they started out: “Once there were three…bears!” and a scan of the cover of Byron Barton’s Three Bears appeared on the screen behind them. As the audience let them know that was wrong, a big red “not right” icon flew in to cover the image (officially called a “prohibitory sign” I just learned…it needs a catchier name). This continued as they got things wrong along the way. The wrong items were built around the pattern of the story, so each time the pig made a house out of……then you’d see the wrong image (igloo, gingerbread house, house of cards) followed by that prohibitory sign. Then we’d follow it up with the right thing, scanned from Paul Galdone’s version of the story. The other spot they used this was: “along came the big bad….(bunny, kitty, and especially funny: baby). We love Google Images! Terri and Sheila are excellent team tellers; they rarely stick to a script and “playfully” surprise each other so each time is fresh. I did the PowerPoint clicking for the story, so they were free to interact both with each other and with the images; the audience saw the images first, then the tellers looked behind themselves at the screen and responded. This way of telling it worked great as a kick-off to the program. The kids had a great time, but also we established the key elements of the story, which the next two stories would be built around, but in different ways.

For my version I use a wolf puppet and a pig puppet, no stage. I tell the kids that I’ll tell the story with only a few words, since they know it already, and that if they watch how the puppets move and listen to the sounds they make they’ll be able to tell when a pig is building a house and when the wolf is huffing and puffing. And since I only have one Pig, he will have to play the role of pigs number 1, 2, and 3, and they’ll know because his sounds will be different. Pig 1 makes squeaky noises, kind of a high pitched hum (which kills my throat, but it’s worth it). I start the puppet high, have him “walk” around a bit while humming, then he sees something and says “Straw!” Then he acts out building a house, still humming. Wolf, who is just behind my back to this point, pops out with a sort of a ruff, ruff (but more wolfy than doggy) sound, looks around, and spots the pig. Using their sounds and basic motions, Wolf knocks, Pig refuses to open, Wolf puffs, blows the house down, then leaps up and descends right above Pig…where both freeze for a moment, then Pig zips away and Wolf misses him. After a brief pause, the pig puppet returns up high, as Pig number 2 this time. Same pattern, only Pig 2 whistles for his sound. Pig 3 is the “scat pig,” making sounds like “zip zop zoobee, scoobi-di-do….” That sort of thing. A few extra flourishes, like Pig 3 saying a hearty “Yeah!!” after completing the house and a “Neener, neener, neener!” when Wolf lands in the pot, make this Pig especially fun to do. When you’re doing the scat pig, you move your body around a bit more too, because your body motion cues informs your puppet characters as much as your voice and puppet handling. The story works from preschool through at least 5th grade, and adults seem to enjoy it a lot too.

So after those two versions, Brad came up with a perfect finisher. He told the story using seven child volunteers and an assortment of instruments. There were different house building sounds for each pig. Two kids shook tambourines each time the kids were scared. One tapped a drum for the Wolf’s knocks and another hit a cymbal each time a house collapsed. Brad used a harmonica for the huffing and puffing, while Terri added guitar sounds to signal the approach of the Wolf to each house. Since everyone definitely knew the story by then, the audience could focus on the cute kids, on Brad’s energetic storytelling, and on the sounds. The children’s timing was amazingly good, and when it wasn’t quite right, Brad and Terri deftly guided them. The key to a story like this is really the interaction between storyteller and kids, including the choosing of volunteers and showing them what to do, which can be as entertaining as the actual story. Brad did a great job of making that playful, fun and easy, building anticipation for the performance. It was a very satisfying finale. We may have to make this an annual theme.

Since we do our Family Storytimes four times in a week, we always have chances to iron out rough bits as we go. For example, on our first performance we didn’t reveal the story we were doing, but let the audience realize it during the first story. So Sheila and Terri played around with that a bit in the beginning of their story. We decided to drop that, though, and they shortened their story a bit so we could fit it all into 30 minutes. Also my timing on the clicker got a little better. Brad made one minor adjustment to his story after the first session: duct tape markers so each volunteer would know where to stand (and to stay there). Our Tuesday Night crowd always gets the slightly rougher version, which also usually runs long, but I don’t think they mind too much….

We got good feedback from this one. Some kids mentioned one version that they liked the best, but all seemed to enjoy seeing how a story can come alive in so many ways. And I think parents at least appreciated the challenge involved in coming up with the three ways. All of our Family Storytimes use varied telling styles, but I think that element stood out more this time. We gave out sheets to cut out pigs and a wolf for stick puppets afterwards, hoping that kids and grownups will be inspired to try their own ways of telling the stories.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Make That Frog Jump

Book: Jump, Frog, Jump by Robert Kalan, Illustrated by Byron Barton
Puppets: Frog, Fly, Fish, Turtle, Snake (optional…see below), Child
Props: Basket or Net
Audience: Toddler-ish
Video:  How to Tell Jump Frog Jump with Puppets

This picture book works great as a read aloud and there’s even a big book version of it for larger crowds, but I still like to try it with puppets. It’s an easy one to do, and works so well because in involves three sure-fire puppetry moves: the Pop-Out, the Freeze, and the Chase. I used it recently with two very different groups of under-3’s, and I also do it for preschool a lot; each way is slightly different, but the essence is the same:

The puppets are in my bag on my lap or in front of me. I hold up the fly (“this is the fly that climbed out of the water”) and then pop the frog out (“This is the Frog that was under the fly…how did the frog catch the fly?). The audience provides the “Jump, Frog, Jump!” refrain each time, and it’s an easy enough one for 1’s and 2’s to get. And since the Frog jumps only after they say it, it really makes them part of the story…if they don’t say it, the Frog doesn’t jump. With preschool ages, you can keep the Frog still the first time they tell it to jump, then ask them to say it louder, and you’re guaranteed a rousing refrain from that point on.

After the Frog eats the Fly, it’s just a matter of bringing out each animal one at a time. As they Pop Out, you can hesitate a bit to make sure they’re wondering what the next animal will be. And you can reveal a portion of the puppet, like the Fish’s tail, which parallels the illustrations in the book, where the next animals to come can be spotted hiding. The Freeze is fun with this story. After Turtle appears, for example, you can have him slowly loom up to Frog as you say “How did the Frog get away” again. Then “freeze” the puppets, so the action stops while the refrain comes…you can also have both animals look quickly at the audience then back to each other in a Double Take…kind of like Wile E. Coyote looking at us just before the anvil flattens him. As for the Chase, that’s optional. I don’t do much chasing with a younger audience, but you can have each animal make a lunge or two (or three) at Frog as he jumps away just in time.

It sounds like a lot of puppetry, but it’s really pretty simple, and it flows naturally from the way the story is told. The structure of the tale is so tight, it gives you room to play a bit with motions and puppet interactions while still keeping you on track within the pattern. The book wraps up with frog caught in a basket, then being set free by one of the boys. With puppets, I do have a child puppet trap Frog in the basket, but then I tell the group that we are going to set him free, and we’ll have to do it quietly, in a whisper. It's always nice to find a story that can be as loud as you want in the middle and quiet everyone down at the end.

Here are a few adaptations I make from the book and for different audiences:
• For younger kids, I don’t repeat the cumulative string of animals with each escape, I just mention Frog and whoever’s after him.
• I skip the Snake with under 3’s. If I had a cuter snake I might include it, but although my snake is excellent, it’s not cute.
• With my Toddler Time group of 25 1’s and 2’s, plus their grown-ups, I used a long net to catch Frog. Lots of fun, but a couple of boys were almost too interested in trying that net themselves. A plain old basket is less distracting, and that’s what I used when I did the story at the Early Head Start at Coffee Creek Correctional Institute, which we visit twice a month. Those kids are a little less used to storytelling and more unpredictable, so I generally keep things tamer with them.
• I’ve also done this as a stage puppet show, which also works well. With a stage you can really have fun with the Chases, plus you can play a bit more with the next animals peeking out before they make their entrances.