Guest Post: Celebrating Día with Puppet Theatre

Remember when I put a call out for guest posts? Well, I’m so excited to share the first one we received! This post is all about how one library makes a special effort to celebrate Día. The post is written by Kelly Doolittle. Kelly is a Library Assistant in the Youth Services department at the Tompkins County Library. She started out working as a page in 2001, graduated to a circulation clerk, and then technical services, and when the job post for Library Assistant in Youth Services opened up, she went for it! Thankfully, she also got hired! She’s been working with children and their families since 2009 and loving it.

Take it away, Kelly!

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For the past few years I have been participating in the celebration of Día during our special end of session library storytimes. We’ve received so many heartfelt thanks and positive reviews from patrons that I thought it might be fun to share some ideas and outlines with other storytimers! They are interesting to put together, and collaborating with colleagues and volunteers in the community is such a wonderful aspect of doing Día storytimes as well!

While we try to incorporate multiculturalism into our regular storytimes as much as we can, there’s something so special and fun about creating storytimes that are all about celebrating diversity through books with children! When you throw in songs, movements, (and especially puppets!) these storytimes really come alive.  Many years ago, we bought a mobile puppet theater. It was one of the best purchases we could have made! The first puppet show we ever did was staged in honor of the donor. It was called The Barking Mouse, which is a fabulous option for Día as it is based on an old Cuban folktale.

I use very few scripts. I usually find books that can be easily transformed into puppet shows. When we’ve purchased puppets through Folkmanis, they often come with a brief folktale attached, and I have used those as starting points
successfully, as well. Often times, I will narrate the story myself, freeing the puppeteers up for focusing on their hands, but there are stories that beg for the puppets to speak (or bark or baa or cockadoodledoo….) such as Everywhere the
Cow Says “Moo!” by Ellen Weinstein.  Here is my list of favorite book-to-puppet theater books.

Here is an example of my latest favorite book-to-puppet theater book:  Catch that Goat! By Polly Alakija

Hornbook Guide Review:  “Ayoka chases her runaway goat through a crowded, colorful African marketplace.
She questions many merchants; none has seen the pesky fugitive, but it has stolen something from each one. Readers
can count down the pilfered items from ten to one as they follow the goat’s trail. Like the text, the illustrations encourage page-turning; the goat can often be spotted disappearing off the right-hand page.”

For this book/play, I used our goat puppet and made/stole/commissioned all kinds of props from our play area, our Youth Services closet, and a coworker’s kids’ toy collection. I narrated and showed the book so they could see the
great illustrations of the Nigerian characters and the wonderful market place. As I was reading each two-page spread, behind the theater a colleague attached the missing market item/prop to the goat puppet being wielded by our awesome volunteer, which was then pranced across the stage and off again until the next two-page spread on which the next missing item was realized. By the end of the book, the goat was covered with all the missing items. Plus the audience got a tour of a Nigerian market place through Alakija’s colorful illustrations!

For Catch That Goat order of accessories click here.

My colleague and I had so much fun with this one!! That is half the fun, dreaming up props that will make these books work with puppets and our little theater.

One year for our Día storytime, after reading and singing Today is Monday in Louisiana by Johnette Downing, I decided to highlight some of our own local culture. Ithaca has a huge vegetarian contingency.  Ever read Today is Monday in Lousiana? It’s chock full of meat dishes! So I created a vegetarian menu which I put up on a white board and set right in front of the stage. As we were all singing the words, we had puppets holding up signs with
cartoons of the food types on them. It’s hard to describe here, but it was adorable & the locals LOVED it.

The basic, rough outline for these programs is as follows, taking about a half hour for completion of the stories/theater/movements & songs:

  • Traditional Storytime Opening Song
  • Book/Super simple puppet piece
  • Puppet Theater (shorter—like a folktale)
  • Book with audience participation
  • Magnet board/Felt board
  • Book w/Puppet Theater
  • Fingerplay/Song
  • Special book w/Puppet Theater
  • Closing Song
  • Craft and Snacks

Here is a sample outline from our last Día celebration storytime in April 2017.

I hope this post helps to generate some new and fun ideas for Día storytimes! I’d also love to read about your own Día celebrations! Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments. Here’s to celebrating Día together next year! For our latest Día storytimes, please check out our blog.

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3 thoughts on “Guest Post: Celebrating Día with Puppet Theatre

    1. I’m lucky to have staff and volunteers who love to work with puppets and they always help me out with these specials, since someone has to narrate (me! Hah!)
      I used to be scared of using puppets, too, but I was told by a wonderful librarian that you can start out slowly by just having a puppet “visit” with you (read: “sit on your lap”) while you read a book about that character. For instance, our baby owl puppet loves to sit with me when I read “I’m NOT Cute!” or “I’m NOT Scared!” by Jonathan Allen. Once you’ve done that once or twice, you get a little less nervous 🙂 Plus, puppets are super easy when you’re singing about them, as in: “The rabbits in the garden go hop, hop, hop…!” or “The monkeys in the jungle say “Eee! Eee! Eee!” Don’t be shy! Families that come to storytime are NOT picky. Believe me, I know…

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