Friday, October 28, 2011

"The Big Pumpkin", Or, Believe It Or Not, A Real "Flannel Friday"

As I've said, I rarely use flannelboard stories of the sort most "Flannel Friday" folks do. Occasionally I use magnetboards, a slight variation where the pieces are usually made from paper covered in clear contact paper, with magnets on the back, but even those are not much in my repetoire anymore.
I was talking about this with our circulation manager(who recalled using flannels less than successfully in Bible classes long ago) and realized that what a flannelboard is, at least to me, is a bridge to storytelling rather than reading the book out loud. It offers a visual, a way to tell the story and yet still put pictures in front of your audience.

Every Halloween for "The Big Pumpkin" I use  wonderful flannelboard pieces (which have magnets on the back, BTW) that were made for me long ago by a skilled assistant. They're fantastic, as you will see.
But it's not just her art that brings the story to the children. It's me, telling the story. Using silly voices--love doing the Vampire to sound much like "The Count" on Sesame Street. Having the children "pull and tug" along with me--was amused to realize that I automatically stand in ballet 4th position to brace my feet for this--and chorus along with "and the pumpkin just sat!"

It's the storyteller that makes a story special, whether you do it with fancy props, a magnet board, a book, or simply in what came be the most powerful medium of all, your own voice.

So take joy in this, and every story you tell, no matter how you tell it!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mother Goose Monday: Halloween Special

Mother Goose Time at Halloween is more about parents/nannies dressing the kids up in costumes and the kids not being happy about it. Last week, in fact, I told the parents I would open the story room 10 minutes early so that they can take pictures to their heart's content, and then divest the kids of any uncomfortable clothes during the program!

We'll do spider songs--"Itsy Bitsy/Eeency Weency" is popular year round, of course.
And then the basket the usually contains various animal puppets for "Grandpa's Farm" will have a spider puppet in it so we can sing Raffi's "Spider on the Floor". This is an ideal "tickle" song and also, of course, names parts of the body.
This video has Raffi's original version, plus some funny spider pictures--arachnophobic types, beware!

Then there is the song I posted last week--"The Pumpkin Song" and "Five Little Pumpkins" I don't like "piggyback" songs, but adding "the ghosts on the bus go boo boo boo" or "the black cats on the bus go meow, meow,meow" is a nice Halloweenish supplement to "Wheels on the Bus", and we sing that every week anyway! And last but not least is this poem--in fact, I usually START all my Halloween story times with this action poem by Nancy Carlstrom of "Jesse Bear" fame. Sadly, "Who Said Boo?" is out of print. I am not giving the gestures--they're pretty easy to guess at or make up:


This is the way the cats walk, the cats walk, the cats walk.
This is the way the cats walk on Halloween night.
Pit! Pat! Pit Pat! Pit! Pat!
On Halloween night
Repeat with:
The kids walk.....trip trap.....
The wind, rap....
The trees walk....scritch scratch....
The moon walks....tip, tap.
All of them together:The moon walks... The trees walk....The winds walks....The kids walk...The cats walk.....
 On Halloween Night!

And it occurred to me the other day that I COULD add my own verse--about the bats flying.
They are going to go FLIP-FLAP!

Since I didn't get to publish this on Monday, I've already done my Tuesday programs. I recorded at both Mother Goose and the 2 and up set's story time, and liked the older kids' program version better, so here's a podcast of us doing it:

Coming as soon as I can get it up here: some extra special Halloween stories!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Theme of the Week: Pumpkins,Pumpkins PLUS:Ramblings About Storytelling

The problem with becoming aware of and trying to participate in "Flannel Friday" is, as I said last month in "Flannel Board Free" that I don't really do flannel boards.

I am a storyteller. Flannel boards (magnet boards) were where I started. But if there's a way to use a prop, a puppet, any gimmick that enables me to TELL a story, that's where I'm headed.

This week's "Pumpkin" program is typical of what I like to do. I DID have this terrific book, which I could have just read to the kids, and I have done that in the past. But mostly I used it just to show them the steps in how a pumpkin grows as part of telling a story that is sometimes called "The Story of A Pumpkin" and that I just call "Feegbah"

If you listen to the podcast, you will hear that I am trying to get the kids involved in the story from the moment they look for an imaginary pumpkin seed behind their ear to the end where they become the cows tossing "Feegbah" high into the sky.  They become trees and they bend to one side and then another.They become houses and stretch their arms above their heads. It's active storytelling and where I go, they follow.

I have told "Feegbah" for many years and I never get bored of telling it. I never get bored telling it for 5 times in a week. Because a story is ORGANIC, not in a misty, New Agey nonsensical sort of way, but because the audience is never the same. I am never the same.  Each time, the story changes depending on who I am telling it to.

I listened to this story and realized that it had evolved again this year. When the Kid taunts Feegbah, this year I danced around going "nyah-nyah-nyah NYAH-NYAH", the time honored chant of my Bronx childhood. And the more the kids giggled, the more I hammed it up.

And when I asked what grows in the forest and a little ham shouted "bananas", I promptly turned the trees into banana trees. So when Feegbah squashed the trees, I honored the late great Harry Chapin by Feegbah leaving behind "30 thousand pounds of mashed bananas" :D

The other story I did this week was based on a Bengali tale usually called "The Old Woman and the Pumpkin", which I told with puppets. Again, I have told this story for years--Guitar Lady and I did it long,long ago as a puppet show in the park at Halloween, but it too keeps changing. Never having liked the ending where 3 wild animals quarrel over who gets to eat the Old Woman while she slips away, I happened to remember the Jessica Souhani version of this story and discovered in that version the Old Woman fools the tiger into thinking she is still skinny and unappetizing by poking her walking stick out of the pumpkin as if it is her arm! That's a nicer, gentler version of the story, so I used that. I was hoping to make up a flannel board version of this and film it, but I still haven't found an old lady cut out, so I've put it on the back burner.

We also sang "Five Little Pumpkins" and "The Pumpkin Song"  I podcasted in my last post. But these two stories are long, and were plenty for story time!

Thursday afternoon, instead of doing another boring pumpkin craft, we made apple cider donuts.
I will post about that on "The Library Lady Cooks" when I get a chance.

And now it's time to get ready for Halloween!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Spider On A Web: A Craft They Make Themself

I am a craft anarchist.

I had an assistant some years ago who drove me crazy (among other reasons) by spending endless hours cutting out prepared perfect pieces for crafts. She missed the whole point of preschool crafts!

Crafts are not, not, NOT  about making a perfect copy  of a perfect <feh>Martha Stewart model.  There is no need for a parent/caregiver to take the item out of the child's hands so it "looks right". It's not about that. It is, as any preschool educator worth their title can tell you about the process, NOT the practice!

Craft activities can teach children  important skills, like using a scissors. They can help them can practice hand-eye coordination. They let them play with colors. They let them use their imaginations, something that kids seldom get a chance to do on a regular basis nowadays. Above all they should be FUN!

As are these spiders on a web:

I did have to cut slots around the edges of the plates in advance. Using a hole puncher way on the edge worked perfectly.

The kids chose their yarn and we taped the end to the back. Then they got to wind it from slot to slot however they pleased. One or two kids needed to be shown the basics, but then they did fine on their own.

I did also cut the pipe cleaners (now usually called "chenille stems") to size, but the kids had no trouble pushing them into the styrofoam balls. I needed to cut off a few sharp bits of wire at the ends. The faces were drawn on with markers.

The fun is in making it--all by yourself!

Mother Goose Monday:The Pumpkin Song

I have not been able to find a credit for this song which I got from my former colleage the "Guitar Lady", but it's been a favorite at the library for years.  I sing it all month at Mother Goose Time, and will also be singing it for the next two weeks at other story times.

Long ago, it was something this little pumpkin and her big sister sang with me quite a lot. They're past such things now (though happily not visits to the pumpkin farm), but patrons frequently tell me that this song is a household favorite!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Theme of the Week: Houses!

I think the book that inspired this theme was "A New House For Mouse", one of the books I found while doing apples a few weeks ago. But in the end I didn't even use it, because I had lots of other fun stuff:


There are other versions of this book--I have the lovely old version by Rojanovsky as a big book. But I never end up using it because like all the books he did for kids, Paul Galdone's bright strong pictures call to children. This is one of the books that I HAVE to sing, but this time I also asked the kids to "hide" with the turtle, "hop" with the frogs and other actions and noises as I could create them.


I didn't get a chance to take pictures of our "Three Little Pigs" puppets or poor old Mr Wolf. He's been in the library for many,many years and I keep showing the kids how worn his teeth are. He's become a Grandpa Wolf, and since I still have this damn cough, this time he had a cold too, and really wanted nothing more than a hot bowl of soup. So the third little pig made him some wonderful vegetable soup and they lived together happily ever after. Smart little pig to go to the library and get cookbooks :D
I had one little girl who was scared of the wolf and the noise the other kids and I were making with our huffing and puffing (the wolf needed help because of his cold). So I made the story milder and kept it that way, even with the older kids. Though the wolf DID go around sniffing the kids and asking if THEY were pigs!

Cut and Tell Story: 
This is known mostly as "The Little Orange House" and is a lot of fun to do. Since I am a klutz AND left handed (I cut with my right), I made some cutting lines in pencil (and poked showed the blank side to the kids and then folded the paper so the lines were facing me. You can find the how-tos  HERE.

Little Red House
The original book is a pretty slight story. A child has a little red house. Inside that is a yellow house and a blue house and a green house and a white house. And inside the final, white house is a tiny bear "Kiss,kiss!"

I was looking to find references about this book and was amused to see that a new Internet acquaintance of mine, Anna of FutureLibrarySuperhero (and as far as I'm concerned, she's one already) had this on her blog. She'd done a lovely version based on what she'd learned from Kimberly Fauvot. Ms Fauvot wrote "Books In Bloom" which is a great book on doing storytelling with props, only I find her patterns overcomplicated and downright anal, and I've done great versions of several of the stories she suggests with much simpler stuff!

Fauvot may have done this story, but I'm betting that I did it before she did. Back when the book first came out my colleague(who was a pain in the toches to share an office with but great to coordinate with) and I immediately hit on this as a great gimmick, and got our incredibly talented page (now long grown with a son of his own) to make us a series of houses out of boxes.
The houses are probably due for a bit of urban renewal (I've patched roofs several times), but it still works well enough to use it at programs. Instead of a tiny teddy bear, I get to the white box and tell the kids that white "has all the colors in it". And then I pull out a tiny bottle of bubbles and blow bubbles!

We had a craft on Thursday, when I've got the oldest kids. But that's for another post.
And next week, of course, is pumpkins!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Theme of the Week:Up In the Trees

I did apples last week, but I have tons of stories about other kinds of trees, or really about the animals who live in them!

I accidentally ordered a kit with a board book copy of this book and a tiny stuffed owl, so I put the book out to circ and kept the owl.  The kids are always asking what's in what looks like a hole on the story room "tree". So this week I told them that I had found something in the hole, and brought out the little owl for them to pet--gently! Then we read this book, which I have in a "big book" edition.
Many of the kids tell me they have this at home--and we had it at my house too when the girls were little. But they are perfectly happy to hear it again, to giggle as I ham it up with Bill's increasingly anguished cry of "I want my mommy!" and to be reassured along with the babies, that moms always come back! 

Every year, I tell Jane Moncure's story "What Will It Rain?"  in which a squirrel tells other animals that it is going to rain something special. They guess things like fish and carrots and oats, but it's none of those of course--it's acorns that rain down on the audience at the end of the story. I am just not creative enough to make a magnet board of this and the book is out of print. But I have just bought a used copy and am going to try to make some sort of film of it to post here.

Recently I did a "Magnet Monday" posting of my "Whoo's Missing?" game--you can find it here.
We played this at all the programs this week. The two year old crowd couldn't do more than one or two owls, but for the three to five year old crowd we took away three and four owls and they really did well at it!

I do this as a song with gestures. But I've added the feltboard and made a "film" for the fun of it:

I could have done even more stuff with my 3-5 year old crew, but it was the first nice Thursday in weeks.
So we went outside and played with soap bubbles and sidewalk chalk instead!

And that's all for this week. Next week's theme? "Houses"............
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