Monday, September 12, 2011

The King, the Mouse, the Cheese, The Cat, and the rest

Book:  The King, the Mice, and the Cheese  by James Gurney
Puppets:  King, Mouse, Cat, Dog, Elephant, Lion optional
Props:  Cheese
Presenters:  One
Audience:   Preschoolers (though I've used with Toddlers too)
Video:  How to Tell The King, the Mouse, and the Cheese with Puppets

Like the “Frog and Toad” books, this is great for group sharing, but the early reader format means the pictures are too small.  So….puppets!  When you tell this story with puppets you can’t really replicate the hordes of animals that appear on the pages of the book.  So you just use one of each to represent the hordes, and make up for it with chases and other interactions.  When the King who loves Cheese has mouse trouble, I just use one mouse.  He can grab the cheese just as the King’s about to eat it, the King grabs it back, etc.  In the book, the King consults with wise men, but in this scaled down version, there are no wise men, just the King pondering, offstage (or in this case, off hand and on lap or wherever).  

So with Mouse on one hand, it’s:  “The King thought and thought, and then he had a wonderful idea.    To get rid of the mice, he would get….[reach into puppet bag]….Cats!”  And out comes a Cat, who chases the Mouse away.  Then King is back on the hand:  “The King was happy.  Now all the mice were gone.  And he had cats.   [Cat begins rubbing against King, purring].  But the King did not like living with cats.  They purred and meowed and shed their hair everywhere.  [King runs away from Cat, off hand]…so the King thought and thought, and then…”    And then that pattern repeats:  Dog gets rid of Cat, Elephant gets rid of Dog, and to complete the circular tale, Mouse returns to scare Elephant away.  And King learns to live with mice. 

The puppet handling here isn’t that hard, but you do have to plan it out and run through it before telling the tale, making sure you can get puppets on and off with one hand fairly easily (or if not, be prepared to use your other hand briefly).  The patterned scenes can be varied a bit, depending on the puppets.  I like to have Cat do near-miss pounces at Mouse.  Dog versus Cat is more of a fast chase.  Elephant chases Dog with a good slow motion bounce-and-squish (or near-squish).   Same thing when the King decides he doesn’t like living with each animal.  Cat sheds, Dog barks, Elephant crowds…whatever seems like fun.  The book includes Lion in between Dog and Elephant, and it’s fine to follow that, but for Storytime I feel like it works better getting to the end of the circle more quickly. 

As for the telling, I’ve tried this with the King talking more and basically narrating his own story, and that works fine.  You can play on the way his happiness with the results of each plan quickly turns to dismay.  Overall, though, I like it better telling it as a narrator.  I think it puts more focus on the pattern of the tale and on the action, rather than on the King as a personality.  But that’s just me.  

We're starting up Fall Storytimes tomorrow, plus our monthly K-2 Book Adventures returns next week, so I hope to be posting 2 or 3 times a week again, after an August lull....

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