Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Scary/Silly Gunniwolf

Book: The Gunniwolf by Wilhelmina Harper, Illustrated by Barbara Upton (2002) or William Wiesner (1967 version)
Puppets: none
Props: Wolf hat or similar; Little Girl stuff; Flowers (at least 3); Forest backdrop big enough to hide behind; Blanket; Pillow; Teddy Bear
Presenters: Two
Audience: Family Storytime (mostly 3-6 years)
Link to Youtube video demo

The Gunniwolf is one of those perfect-for-puppets stories, with chases, hide-and-peeks, distinct characters, funny sounds, and a song. So I’ve done it as a puppet story many times, with and without a stage. For our Family Storytime, though, Sheila and I decided to act it out. We tried to retain most of the best puppet-ish bits in some form without adding too much elaborate in terms of costumes or props. As Little Girl, Sheila put on a grass skirt and a flower head band and searched for flowers. I wore a wolf-hat created by Sheila that was a bit scary (teeth!) but not too much. Just to make sure I wasn’t too frightening for our young crowd, I put the hat on when we introduced the, so they wouldn’t be too surprised.

I love the way the scariness works in this tale. You can make it pretty scary if you want to, but you can manage that by adjusting the goofiness of the Gunniwolf. No matter how silly he is, though, there’s always some tension and the kids get really involved in warning the girl.

The simple tri-fold that we use for most of our stories served as the forest, especially after we put our cut-out tree in front of it (another piece we use in a lot of stories). As the Gunniwolf, I peeked out a few times and the kids warned Little Girl (who didn’t listen of course), building up some suspense. That leads to: the Pop-Out, when Little Girl finally sees the Gunniwolf. This is exciting, since the kids knew it was coming but weren’t sure when, and because they’re not totally sure what will happen next. And it’s fun, because the Gunniwolf sounds kind of silly and Little Girl is scared, but in a funny way.

For the song, we included an extra gag that I do with the puppets: Gunniwolf tells Little Girl to sing, and she sings the wrong song each time: “Twinkle Twinkle,” “Jingle Bells,” etc., before finally singing the write way (“Kum-kwa, Khi-wa…”). Another added joke: each time Gunniwolf falls asleep to the song, he first dips behind the backdrop to get something: first a blankie, then a pillow, then a teddy bear. So a bit more silliness, leading into the chase, which brings back the suspense. We didn’t run around that much with the chases, but used the great refrain from the story (“Pit pat pit pat” goes Little Girl…”Hunker-cha, hunker-cha” goes Gunniwolf) to carry the drama. Just like with puppets, slowing down a chase scene usually works best, so we “run” almost in slow motion. It’s not the speed, it’s the anticipation that creates the suspense.

For the final chase, Little Girl makes it home and Gunniwolf is consoled by the fact that he now has learned the song and sings it himself in his very bad singing voice (at last, a singing performance that fits my musical talent level). And Little Girl says she’ll obey Mother from now on…probably.

1 comment:

  1. Steven, I LOVE this idea. Now I just need to find a willing accomplice to be little girl, because I so want to be the wolf. The blanket and teddy bear bit is brilliant.