Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Pirate, A Parrot, and Vanilla Wafers

Book:  Pirate Pete  by Kim Kennedy; illustrated by Doug Kennedy
Puppets:  none
Props:   Treasure Map, Pirate Hat, Toothbrush;  Pot;  Potatoes; Pillow Case; Book; Chest; Vanilla Wafers
Presenters:  2, plus 3 child volunteers
Technology:  PowerPoint scans
Audience:  Family Storytime (mostly 3-6 year olds)

We present our Family Storytimes with two people, rotating combinations among four of us (Me, Brad, Sheila, and Terri).  Usually we develop stories together or sometimes tweak ones we've done before.  Last week I was a last minute fill-in for Brad, so I did "Pirate Stories" with Terri.  The two of them had everything all worked out, so all I had to do was step in...they'd already done the hard creative part of making the stories work. 

They've developed an especially neat way to present Pirate Pete, using props, kids, and scans.  I played Pete and Terri was Polly, his parrot.  We find a treasure map that says we'll find gold on Mermaid Island.  Pete's refrain is "Where there's a-gold, that's where I'm a goin'!"  So we get in our ship and sail, which gives a nice interlude where the kids get up and stretch:   We all put hands above our heads (like a sail) and move from side to side while singing this quick refrain:  
  "We sail and we sail and we Stop! / We sail and we sail and we Stop! / We sail and we sail and we sail and we sail and we sail and we sail and we Stop!"

Then we all take out our imaginary telescopes and look for Mermaid Island.  This is where the scans come in.  While Pete and Polly look out towards the audience, we click to make a telescope view appear.  The kids see the scan, but we don't, so we have some fun making it disappear when we turn around, then reappear, until finally we spot it.  But this isn't Mermaid Island, it's.....Candy Island!  Pete decides there might be gold there because:  "Where there's candy, there's kids; and where there's kids, there's teeth; and where there's teeth there's cavities; and where there's cavities there' fillin's!"

Here's where the kid volunteers come in.  We look in the audience for gold fillings and find the child we gave a big toothbrush to earlier.  We bring her up and have her open her mouth.   But no fillings, of course, because she brushes her teeth with that toothbrush.  We take her toothbrush anyway (because that's what pirates do), and she sits down.

That pattern repeats twice more:  Back into the ship;  Sing the song;  Look for Mermaid Island;  Find other islands instead; Bring up a child with props.  For Clover Island the child has a pot...but inside is potatoes, not gold.  For Sleepy Island it's a pillow slip, but the treasure isn't gold dust, but a book (which we admit is a treasure, just not the treasure we're looking for). 

Finally we find Mermaid Island and read from the treasure map to find the treasure.  We go forward 5 paces, backward 8 paces, and wind up crashing into a chest that's been there the whole time, but covered with fabric.  We peek in, but don't let the kids see.  Then we pretend that there's nothing there, the story's over, and we sailed off to follow the gold in the sunset.  The kids, of course, don't buy it and really want to see what's inside.  So we reveal the gold doubloons:  Which are actually
Vanilla Wafers.  And when Storytime is over, we pass out one "piece of gold" to each child. 

The story really works well.  The song and stretch makes a perfect interlude, the kid volunteer piece is fun and purposeful, and the scans work well within the acting out and tie it strongly to the illustrations from the book.  And it worked out great for me:  Brad and Terri did all the creative stuff, and all I had to do was show up and talk like a pirate. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Brave Cowboy and His Lullaby

Book:  Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas
Puppets:   Cow, Sheep, Wolf
Props:  Cowboy Hat, Flower, Pillow and/or Blanket
Presenters:  One (also works as a two-person act-out)
Audience:   Toddlers (1-2 years);  also works with Preschool

My Toddler Time group is for ones and twos and I try to choose material accordingly, but every once in a while I just have to try a story that’s more of a 2-3 year old choice.  Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy fits that description.  In the book, Brave Cowboy tries to sing the cows to sleep, but gets scared by things that aren’t really scary:  a flower that he thinks is a stick, for example.  For preschool kids, you can really play up the mock-scariness of the story, but everything for ones and twos has to be pretty gentle.

I put on a cowboy hat to play the role of Brave Cowboy, rather than using a separate puppet.  That way I can control the goofiness and make sure any suspense is always light-hearted.  I used one cow puppet, rather than the pair used in the book.

I sing the lullaby to the tune of “Home on the Range” (the “Oh give me a home…” verse part, not the “Home, home on the range…” part)Sheila and Terri worked that out when they did this story for older kids. I had to write it like this:  "It's time for little cows to rest their heads / It's time for little cows to-go-to-bed," with the dashes in the last bit so I remember to run those together and match the rhythm of the song.   
  The song ends with: “It’s time for little cows to say….” And then instead of a gentle “good night,” Cowboy says:  “OH NO!”  (It’s “EEEK!” in the book, but I’m not sure toddlers get “eek!” so I changed it).  Cow asks what’s wrong and Cowboy points to the puppet bag:  “I think I see a Huge Hairy Spider.”  As Cowboy, I reach in and poke out the top of the flower, so everyone can see it’s not a spider.  Then Cow pulls it out and reassures Cowboy.  Since it's toddlers, I don't act too scared at the suspected spider.  And I reveal the top of the flower for a bit before Cow identifies it for Cowboy.  That keeps the kids one step ahead of Cowboy, which is just right for the story.

The same sequence repeats:  Cowboy sings the song;  Thinks he sees a Large Lumbering Bear;  It’s really a Sheep.  The book also has a bit with a Snake / Stick, but I decided we only needed two Cowboy errors with toddlers, and then could go right into the last bit.

Now Cowboy realizes he’s been overreacting. But when he says that the next thing in the bag might look like a Huge Shaggy Wolf, Cow zips away behind the back.  Cowboy says it’s “probably just a Big Giant Bunny, right Cow?”  Cow sneaks back, looks and says “No, it’s really a Wolf.”  For preschoolers this is a fun, wild moment that you play up a lot, but with this crowd you keep a smile on your face and never have Cowboy be all that scared.|

The ending wraps it all up nicely, as Cowboy sings the song to Cow and Wolf and they finally make it to the closing line of “It’s time for us to say:  Goodnight.”  In the end, this one worked the way slightly-too-old-for-Toddlers books often do:  They enjoyed it, even though they might not have fully grasped the humor of a Cowboy who claims to be brave but really isn't.  But...there's a storyteller in a cowboy hat, some puppets doing silly things, and a nice little song, though, and you can't go wrong with all that.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Tortoise and the Hare and Fats Domino

Story:  The Tortoise and the Hare
Props:   Rabbit stuff (ears will do), Tortoise stuff (green shirt and hat works), something to mark finish and starting lines
Puppets:   None
Audience:  Family Storytime (mostly preschool age)
We finally started our Fall Storytime sessions last week.  Brad and I drew "folktales" as the Family Storytime theme and decided on "The Tortoise and the Hare" as one of our stories.  I've done this with puppets and as an oral tale, but it also seemed like a natural choice to act out with two people.  So we did.  When we do "act outs" we usually don't worry too much about costumes.  We had some bunny ears that Brad put on.  I just wore a green shirt and a backwards green baseball cap.  Especially with a story like this, with such clear action and characters, the audience focuses on what we do and say in character, not on how we look. 

It's nice as an act out because the characters are so distinct.  Brad was the fast, frantic, impatient Hare and I was Tortoise.  We set up a cut-out tree at one end of the stage and a cut-out bush at the other.  Hare challenges Tortoise to the race and says it will be "twice around the tree and then back to it."  So Hare zips off to start it out and disappears behind the tree.  Then Tortoise saunters along.  Once he rounds the tree, Hare speeds out from behind it, goes around the bush, and stops, just where the race began (having completed one lap).  As Hare tells the audience how great he is and how he's going to stop to read a book, Tortoise trudges past behind him (on the way to the bush), then rounds the bush and passes in front of him.  Hare is engrossed in his book and doesn't see him.  

When Tortoise makes it to the tree, Hare looks up, realizes he's behind, and takes off again.  The physical set up worked fine.  Kids totally get what's going on, I think partly because many know the story, but also because the story is just so simple they catch on right away. 
As with my puppet show version, I had Tortoise sing a little theme song each time he walks, to kind of punctuate each segment.  The song I use is to the tune of "I'm Walkin'" by Fats Domino (which spent 6 weeks at the top of the R&B charts in 1957, though I don't share that fact in Storytime), substituting words about the race and singing it in a slow tortoise voice:  "I'm walkin', / It's a beautiful day / I'm walkin', / I'm on my way / I'm hopin' / That I might win this race."

 After Hare passes Tortoise again and takes a nap,  we try to build up the ending so the kids are anticipating and very involved.  Tortoise passes ("I'm walkin', / I'm feelin' fine. / I'm walkin', / There's the finish line. / I'm thinkin' / That I'm gonna win this race").  Tortoise stops short of the tree while Hare wakes up, then waits until Hare has almost made  it before slapping his hand on the tree.  Tortoise consoles Hare by suggesting that he try another race with a different opponent:  his good friend Snail. 

It's all very easy to learn and to act out, and except for the song refrains, you don't have to memorize much.  Just playing with the personalities of the characters and following the structure of the race makes it work.  The first time we did the story we had the guys do three laps; we cut one lap for the next three performances because we ran over.  The shortened version was actually even a little better because it gets from the general idea to the fun finishing scene quicker.

This is a good simple story for puppets with a stage. You can really play up the fast/slow contrast by the way you move the puppets.  It also works well as an oral story that's also a chance for the kids to stretch.  I tell a sort of bare bones version of the story, but have the kids stand up while I tell it and run in when it's Hare and slow when it's Tortoise.  So the focus there is more on the speeds and participation, rather than the personalities.  Sometimes I think that Aesop guy must have been a children's librarian, because his stories sure work in a lot of ways...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

2 More Puppet Videos

Since I'm low on new stories to blog about (see previous post) I did a couple more "Storytelling with Puppets" entries on Youtube:

The Napping House by Audrey & Don Wood


The Wide Mouthed Frog,  a traditional tale

You can see all of the videos (now up to 21!) at:

Monday, September 2, 2013

I Wonder if These Books Will Work?

August is just not a great time for new "Beyond the Book Storytimes" posts.  We have a long Storytime Break so I don't have much to share.  Things start back up in early September.  Meanwhile, though, we're looking ahead and planning some future storytimes.  We repeat lots of stories from previous just takes too much time to develop three two-person stories every week.  But we all love to find new books to try as well.  So far we've identified a handful that we'd like to try.  Here's a few I'm looking forward to, some for two-person Family Storytime, others for Toddler Time solo, along with some early thoughts about how we might do them.  If they make the final cut and we actually do them, I'll report on them with details here eventually:

I Want My Hat Back  by Jon Klassen
I'm thinking we have one person either dressed as Bear or with a Bear puppet outside of the puppet stage, then another with puppets behind the stage.  At the end Bear disappears behind the stage, then emerges with his hat.  And the audience can speculate about Rabbit's fate. 

This Is Not My Hat  by Jon Klassen
You've got to show these pictures, so I think maybe we scan most of the illustrations, but have Little Fish as a puppet in front of the screen.  In our brainstorming, not everyone could see this working, but I think once we walk through it this will work great.  We may do this in Family Storytime, but may save it for a K-2 Book Adventure (we may do a "Caldecott" theme in February)

That is Not a Good Idea
by Mo Willems

(see, we're not only thinking of Jon Klassen books)
This could be a good two-person puppet show.  Goose and Fox down below interacting, with the chorus of Goslings up above, acting as a sort of chorus. far I've listed three stories and we've got a Bear eating a Rabbit, a Big Fish swallowing a Little Fish, and a family of Geese enjoying Wolf soup.  Maybe we could squeeze in a "Death and Dying" theme in between Getting Dressed and Silly Stories. 

I'm the Best 
by Lucy Cousins
This could be an easy one to act out, with one person as Dog and the other person switching to each
of Dog's friends.  Lots of chances for action as Dog does various activities either better than, or worse than his friends.

Don't Copy Me by Jonathan Allen
We might act this one out with some child volunteers.  Four of five young puffins copy everything the grown-up puffin know, the irritating game anyone with a sibling has done at one time or another.  Should be fun.

A Kiss Like This 
by Mary Murphy
A nice flap book that could work with a puppet follow-up in Toddler Time.  Maybe pulling various puppets out of the bag and having them kiss any toddlers who are willing...

Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy 
by Jan Thomas
Terri and Sheila did this as an act-out in Family Storytime, but I'm thinking of using puppets for Toddler Time.  Possibly me putting on a cowboy hat, then interacting with a cow puppet, and taking getting scared at stuff I see in the bag:  like a spider (but it turns out to be a flower), a snake (stick), etc.