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.”

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