Monday, April 30, 2012


Book:  Piggle by Crosby Bonsall
Puppets:   Pig, Bear;  Girl, Rabbit, Sheep, Boy optional
Props:   None
Presenters:   Two, though it works with one
Audience:  Family Storytime
Video:  How to Tell Piggle with Puppets

Crosby Bonsall's Piggle has always been one of my favorite early readers.  It's clever and funny and has excellent characters.  I've told it as a one person puppet story over the years, but got a chance to do it with a partner for a recent "Silly Stories" themed Storytime with Terri.  Terri put on a baseball cap and played Homer, while I was behind a screen (not a full puppet stage) with puppets.  In the book, Homer tries to find someone to play with him with no success, until he meets Bear and they play a game called "Piggle."  There's bit in the middle with some arguing and fighting that we don't include.  And although our original version included Homer's interactions with a girl (Lolly), a Rabbit, and a Sheep, we ended up boiling it down to the most key characters.  Homer, Pig, and Bear.

First Pig drives Homer crazy with smart aleck answers:  P: "What game shall we play?"  H:  "I don't care."  P: "I don't know how to play that game."  After a bit of similar back and forth Pig finally claims to know a game called Piggle, but won't tell Homer how to play it (because Pig really doesn't know).  Pig exits and Homer utters his trademark expression of frustration:  "Beans!"  Saying "Beans!" several times is the highlight of the story for me (I'm not sure why), so I should get some big-time teamwork points for letting Terri be Homer. 

Then Bear appears and makes up a Piggle game, which is just creating rhymes:  B:  "Piggle, like Miggle!"   H:  "Miggle, Bear?"   B:  "Miggle, like....Diggle!"  And so on.  Again, the back and forth between characters is fun, and so are the rhymes (with the added phonological awareness benefit of playing with sounds).  They continue rhyming ("Gillikin, Millikan, Zillikan!"  "Wumpity, Lumpity, Bumpity") until Bear has to go.  Here's where we skip the middle part of the book, and also skip the parts where Lolly, Rabbit, and others learn how to play Piggle from Homer (although I've included the playing Piggle parts in the past).   Instead, we bring Pig right back, and he sheepishly gets Homer to show him how Piggle goes.  And once Pig knows, he gives it a try and gets it all wrong:  "Cute, sweet, clean, clever, Pig!"  Homer lets him know that's not right (as do the kids in the audience) and Pig storms off with a "Beans!" of his own (so I do get to say it once). 

The ending is quite nice, as Bear returns and Homer invites him to play again, which is an idea that Bear thinks is:  "Splunderful, Junderful....Wonderful!"  Although we end up cutting quite a bit from the book, it would have been a bit too lengthy and a bit too complex for our Family Storytime audience.  With the shortened version we still get the key elements:  Fun wordplay; personable characters who interact a lot;  and a progression of events that's easy to follow.  The one-person version works fine too, which just requires a Boy puppet for Homer on one hand, and Pig and Bear alternately appearing on the other.  When the story's over I usually point out to the audience that "you can play Piggle yourself anytime....It's Simple!  Rimple!  Jimple!"

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Three Bears with Kazoos

Story:  The Three Bears 
Puppets:   None
Props:   4 Kazoos
Presenters:   4
Audience:   Family Storytime

For our second annual "One Story Three Ways" Family Storytime, we presented "The Three Bears" in three different ways.  We started with a kazoo version, inspired by storyteller Beth Horner, who performed the story solo with a kazoo at the Multnomah County Library's Tapestry of Tales Storytelling Festival a few years ago.  I couldn't find a video of her amazing performance and it's probably just as well...I might have decided anything we did would be lame in comparison.  But we decided to try it in our own way, which was:    No words, just sounds you make from the kazoo, and no props, just four people acting it all out.  We kept to the bare bones of the story so kids could follow the action easily.  So Papa Bear (me) walks out and says hi; Mama Bear walks out and says hi (that's Andi, our library's Adult Program Coordinator, who stepped in at the last minute when Terri was sick);  and Baby Bear walks and says hi (that's Sam, our On-Call Librarian, also filling in for an absence).  Baby Bear actually doesn't come out when she should, so Papa and Mama have to call him...that's one little running joke we repeated a few times. 
Then Papa Bear tries his porridge, followed by...well you know how it goes.  Reference Librarian Burton Haun filmed one of our performances, and here's a short video clip to give you the idea (although the kazoos sound funnier live): 

We kept our kazoos in our mouths the whole time, so we looked silly and sounded sillier.  Our sounds pretty much matched the rhythm of the story's words, so the kids could tell when we made sounds for "too hot!" or "somebody's been sleeping in my bed!" 

The Bears exit and Goldilocks (Sheila) comes in for a solo turn.  The Bear parts were pretty easy, and there were three of us.  Sheila, though, had to make her bit work on her own and she did a great job.  She paced it just right, without rushing, and used the space really well so that you almost felt like you could see the too-hard chair and the just-right bed.  She gives a long "Uh Oh!" after she finishes the porridge and breaks the chair, and the Bears repeat that "Uh Oh!" later when they discover the damage she's done, so that works as a little aural refrain.  Here's a short video clip of Goldilocks and the porridge: 
The Bears return to find the damage she'd done. When Baby Bear discovers her empty bowl, then her broken chair, all three Bears gave that long "Uh oh" at the same time. Then when the Bears finally discover Goldilocks, she looks at them and does that same "Uh Oh," which is followed by a lively (but not too fast) chase.  It ends with the Bears kazoo-ing:  "And don't come back!"    

The whole thing worked really well. We gave a mini-summary of the story during the introduction, just to kind of prepare the kids: "If you watch what we do and listen to the sounds, you'll be able to tell when the Bears are tasting their porridge or when Goldilocks breaks the chair..." We also showed them what a kazoo was and made some sample sounds, because most of the kids hadn't seen or heard one before. It turns out that it's actually kind of hard to keep a kazoo in your mouth for a long time without a break, but we managed okay.   A future post will describe the other two ways we did "The Three Bears" for our "One Story, Three Ways" storytime sessions. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Ball for Daisy with Screen and Music

Book:  A Ball for Daisy  by Chris Raschka
Puppets:   None
Props:   Dog Stuff to wear;  Pillow (dog bed);  Trash Can;  Red Ball;  Blue Ball;  Popped Red Ball (or balloon)
Presenters:   Two
Technology:   PowerPoint + Projector + Music
Audience:  Family Stortime, K-2nd

Sheila's been wanting to find a way to do Chris Rascka's wordless A Ball for Daisy since the day it came out.  When she and Brad had a "Cats and Dogs" Storytime they started talking about scanning the images and acting it out at the same time, but it didn't seem like quite enough.  Then they started talking about adding music, and that was it.  You could see the wheels turning as Brad started playing around with song clips and trying different combinations.  He finally worked it out, and it was a big hit in Storytime.  A month or so later Sheila and I did it for our Caldecott-themed "K-2 Book Adventure." 

The scanned images appear on the screen, while at the same time Daisy (me) and Brown Dog (Sheila) silently act out.  So Daisy starts in bed with the red ball, while the happy song plays:  "In the Mood" (sound clip from  Daisy pops up, walks around, plays with the ball, etc.  So the kids are seeing me playing with the ball as Daisy, while behind me the screen shows images of Daisy playing.  It sounds kind of confusing, but it actually works really well visually (though you can't see it so well in the photo here).  The red ball stands out so neatly in Raschka's illustrations, and the red ball we use is equally bright, so that kind of anchors the presentation, tying the live action to the screeen, but not too tightly.  We considered using balloons for the balls, because they kind of let you play in slow motion, but they just weren't round enough and it was important for them to match the balls in the books as closely as possible. 

After Daisy plays for a bit, Brown Dog pops out, and she and Daisy play with the ball together, with the music still playing.  Finally, though, the ball rolls behind the backdrop, Brown Dog follows it, and the music abruptly stops.  (Brad set up the PowerPoint so that the song would continue playing until we reached this particular slide).  Then there's a bit of silence and a loud pop, which is Sheila popping a balloon behind the backdrop.  Daisy stands there crestfallen for a moment, then the sad music starts:  Chopin's "Funeral March."  The kids are totally involved at this point...their hearts are breaking for that poor dog (even though it's actually a tall man with a goofy dog hat).  Then Brown Dog walks out with the popped ball in her mouth.  Daisy takes it sadly, drops it in the trash can, and flops sadly back on her pillow.  
Daisy wakes up though, and as she walks slowly along....back comes the happy music!  And out pops Brown Dog from behind the backdrop with a new blue ball!  The two dogs play happily again and all is well.
This was a fun story to act out, but I especially enjoyed watching Brad and Sheila present it earlier.  I knew the screen/act out/music combination would be entertaining to the kids, but until I saw it I didn't realize how well it captured the themes and visual imagery of the book.  It wasn't a direct representation of course....for one thing, it was dogs only, without the humans.  But you get the joy/sorrow/joy of the story, with the wordless storytelling retained, the fantastic artwork prominently featured, plus a little Glenn Miller and Chopin thrown in.   


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Tops and Bottoms, Carrots and Broccoli

Book:  Tops and Bottoms  by Janet Stevens
Puppets:   None
Props:   Carrot, Broccoli, Corn (with tops and bottoms), Bunny Ears, Bear Ears or similar
Presenters:    Two, plus 3-5 kids
Audience:   K-2, but fine for preschoolers
Video:  How to Tell Tops and Bottoms with Puppets

 Janet Stevens' vertically-oriented picture book Tops and Bottoms makes an excellent two person Act-Out story.  We presented it for our "Caldecott Celebraton" theme at a K-2 Book Adventure, with me as Hare and Terri as Bear.  Hare offers to do all the work of planting and harvesting vegetables and then split everything with Bear.  Bear will get the top half, Hare the bottom.  The dialog between Lazy Bear and Tricky Hare is fun...the kids can tell a trick's coming, but they're not sure what it is yet.  Hare gets his children to help:  that's just getting three or four kids from the audience, and giving them bunny ears.  It's easy for them to follow along as we plant seeds, water them (squirting the audience with a water bottle), and pretend to gather them up.  Then I reach behind our backdrop to pull out a sample of our harvest:  A carrot, which of course leaves Bear with just the green part. 

Once Bear sees he's been tricked, they strike a new deal, with Bear getting the bottoms.  And the crop turns out to be broccoli.  This sets up the final episode, where Bear insists on tops and bottoms, and still loses out because they grow corn and Hare takes the middle. 

The folktale structure works really well here, with a pattern that repeats twice, but with a twist each time.  It's also my favorite kind of child-participation story:  The kids have stuff to do, and it's meaningful in the story (because Hare needs to feed his whole family), but you don't need to break up the story to give instructions, and even if they don't quite get the actions right, the story still flows fine.

Over the years I've tried different things for the vegetables.  I've used real ones, which would be great except the veggies you find at the grocery store usually only have the good stuff carrot greens, broccoli roots or corn stalks.  So I've done things like buy a carrot, then attach parsley to it, and once you start grafting (actually taping) different foods together it kind of defeats the whole idea of using real stuff.  I've also just used pictures, printing out an image or photo and enlarging it, and that's okay, just not as interesting. 

This latest time, though, was the best.  Several months ago Sheila bought some big stuffed vegetables from Ikea to use as toys/decorations for the play area in our library, and they were perfect.  Terri got the idea of just rolling up colored paper for roots and stalks and lightly taping them to the ends.  They were big and looked great, plus it set up a good visual moment when Hare hands the carrot to Bear and can easily pull apart the tops and bottoms, so Bear is left staring at his unappetizing root.  Sadly, there were no stuffed corns at Ikea, but we had a large plastic corncob that worked fine.  (Food props always seem to come in handy, so we have a drawer full of them.  And although we bought them for decorations, we've used those stuffed veggies in at least five stories since we got them)      

I've also tried this story as a one person puppet show, both behind a stage and with no stage.  This works okay, but I like it best as an act out, where you can move around more and get more audience involvement. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

K-2 Book Adventure Program Summary: Wild Animals

 For our "Wild Animals" K-2 Book Adventures program we performed some old favorites, put a twist on a new favorite, and highlighted some excellent animal non-fiction.  We opened with something different:  We projected scans of the illustrations from Jerry Pinkney's amazing Lion and the Mouse.  At the same time we had musicians and students from our local music school providing string accompaniment.  This was very cool...the four musicians had chosen music ahead of time and had some sound effects for different moments in the story, like when Lion roars for help and when Mouse appears to save the day.  It was a little tricky timing our clicks/page turns to their music only because we barely had time to run through it beforehand, but the illustrations and the music really worked well together.

Scranimals  by Jack Prelutsky and Peter Sis was a nice poetry interlude.  We scanned two of the illustrations and read the accompanying poems:  "Oh Sleek Bananaconda" and "Sweet Porcupineapple," which got laughs from the kids and led them to check out our copies to read more.

We did a bit of Reader's Theater to present My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett and Ruth Chrisman Gannett.  This is one of my favorite books ever, so I love to introduce it to kids any way I can.  For this one, I introduced the basics of the story (Elmer Elevator wants to rescue a baby dragon from Wild Island), read the list of what he took in his backpack (with images popping up on the screen for each one (culled from Google images), including two dozen pink lollipops, seven hair ribbons of different colors, chewing gum, and more odd stuff.  Then we jump to the scene where he meets the tigers, who are played by kids (wearing simple paper tiger ears), each one reading the line from the book.  And once the tigers are ready to eat Elmer....."he opened the knapsack and took out the chewing gum."  Which is where we end it, with the kids wondering how some chewing gum might help Elmer escape seven hungry tigers.   

"Name That Wild Animal" was a fun segment where we projected an animal photo from a book, but revealed only a small portion so the kids could guess what it was.  Then we'd reveal another section, when most would be able to get it.  And finally the whole thing.  This is easy to do with PowerPoint, using Shapes to cover the picture and Animations to remove them in order with a click.  We took all the pictures from the "National Geographic Readers" series, which has several animal titles.  These are just right for our target age, plus since they all have the same kind of look, they made a very pleasing book display. 

The Gunniwolf acted out is always a success, and we had great fun with it again.  This was the story we also took to the schools for our quick promotion of the travels well also, since all you really need is a few flowers. 

We always need a stretch break for these programs, which tend to stretch beyond our 45 minute goal, and the natural one here was to do some simple animal yoga.  We did two interludes with poses from A Yoga Parade of Animals by Pauline Mainland, including Giraffe and Lion. 

Then we highlighted two excellent "Life Size" animal series: Actual Size and Prehistoric Actual Size by Steve Jenkins and Life-Size Zoo and Life-Size Aquarium by Teruyuki Komiya (English adaptation by Kristin Earhart). For these it was just a matter of showing a few of the most impressive examples: Squid's Eye, Rhinoceros Horns, nearly a whole Walking Stick.

We closed with a quick puppet show by me based on Jan Brett's Annie and the Wild Animals. This can really be an excellent puppet show, but on this day I was a little too hurried and the kids had been sitting a little too long, so it wasn't as good as it might have been.

Overall, though, the program worked very well, and allowed us to promote some excellent picture books, non-fiction, a chapter book, and poetry.