Friday, May 13, 2011

Mr. Rabbit and a brick and Elmo

Story:  Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present  by Charlotte Zolotow, Illustrated by Maurice Sendak
Puppets:   Rabbit,  Little Girl optional
Props:  Basket, fruit in four colors, other stuff in four colors
Presenters:  One
Audience:  Toddler Time (1's and 2's)

My puppet & props version of Mister Rabbit and the Lovely Present is a far cry from the original, but it does work nicely with toddlers, even though the book is written more for 3-5’s. So I shorten and change a lot of the story, taking away much of the warm and clever dialogue. They’ll appreciate the Zolotow words and the Sendak pictures when sitting on mom’s lap with the book later, but for now, I’ve got to entertain 25 toddlers. So I use a rabbit puppet, play the little girl myself, and pretty much zip right to: “What can I give my mother for her birthday?” I do get to keep a bit that I like as the part of the introduction: “What does she like?” “She likes red.” “You can’t give her red.” “Something red maybe…” Which leads into “what is red?...”

Then Mr. Rabbit reaches into the puppet/prop bag and pulls out red stuff. This week it was a brick, a ladybug, and a stuffed Elmo. Three wrong ones seems to be about right for this age. I really like “There are red birds,” from the book and Little Girl’s response: “She likes birds in trees.” But I don’t have a red bird, so it’s “she likes ladybugs outside.” And finally he tries a red apple, which is perfect.

We follow the same pattern with yellow (car / bumblebee / banana), green (boat, frog / pear), and blue (fish / cookie monster / blueberries) until she has the basket of fruit that’s the perfect present. And I get to end with the satisfying lines from the book: “Good by, and a happy birthday and a happy basket of fruit to your mother.”

With ones and twos, the anticipation and surprise around what will pop out of the bag is the main draw. But I also like the way they do seem to follow the story, recognizing that there is a dialogue between Mr. Rabbit and Little Girl. I’ve also done this with Mr. Rabbit on one hand and a girl puppet on the other. Using just one puppet makes the prop handling easier, but I also think I prefer that way as a storyteller…I’m not really sure why, but I think it just creates a bit more of a connection with the audience somehow.

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