From the monthly archives:

July 2010

Storm Boy

by Vicky on July 18, 2010

Continuing with the Summer Reading Program theme, “Make a Splash @ Your Library,” our Page Presents class featured the book, Storm Boy, by Paul Owen Lewis.

I told Matt about that it was a story about how different peoples came to understand and honor one another by learning each other’s dances and songs.

He decided that this would be a great opportunity to practice cooperative learning.  So he gave all the kids rhythm instruments and led them in a steady drumbeat.  He told the kids that, in the story they were about to hear, people taught each other their own unique dances.  Then, keeping the beat going, he asked for a volunteer who would show everyone a special dance move.

Kids eagerly took turns showing a signature movement, and then the whole group followed.  Matt gently drew out kids who clearly wanted to demonstrate a dance move but were too shy to volunteer.  Everyone kept the beat going and imitated each new movement.

It’s so gratifying to see the kids enthusiastically participating!

When I first began leading the storytime last December, kids were shy about participating and it was hard to get everyone up and moving.  Now kids (and their parents!) are eager and active.  One little boy who would never take a turn playing the chimes at the beginning of storytime has been peeking at me with a shy smile whenever he comes to the library.  This week he played the chimes beautifully.  It made my day.

At the beginning of Storm Boy, a chief’s son goes out fishing alone.  Orca whales are hunting salmon also.  A storm blows up and the waves rise, swamping his canoe.

The boy sinks down, down, down to the bottom of the sea.

There he finds himself in a settlement with a longhouse and totem poles under a strange sky.  All of the people are extremely tall.

He greets them and introduces himself and they welcome him.  They invite him to share their feast.  Inside the longhouse, he notices what appear to be orca skins hanging on the walls.  The tall people offer him the same salmon that his people eat, but they do not cook the fish.

Still, the meal is good.  Afterwards the tall people dance and sing and offer to teach the boy their dances.

The boy learns quickly, which pleases the Orca People.

The boy reciprocates by offering to teach them the dances of his people.

The dancing goes on and on, far into the night.

The boy begins to think of his family, wondering if he will ever see them again.

Suddenly, the drumming and singing stops, and the Chief says to the boy, “You have been our guest and you have taught us well.  But now you are tired and wish to return to your home.  Stand behind me and think only of your family.  Let no other thought enter your mind!”

The boy follows the chief’s directions.  He closes his eyes and his mind fills with images of his family.  He smells the sea and the smoke from their settlement, mixed with the spicy green aroma of the surrounding cedar forest.

He finds himself grasping the tall dorsal fin of an orca and hangs on tightly as the powerful whale ferries him up through the cold water toward the surface.

Then he is on his home beach, and his mother is joyfully embracing the son she thought was lost at sea a full year ago.

“But I was gone only one day,” he tells his family.

“No, it was a year ago that you went out fishing and never returned,” they tell him.

He recounts his marvelous visit with the Orca People, and then he teaches his people the dances that the Orcas taught him.

And from that time on, his people and the Orca People regarded each other as relatives.

When we used to live up in the Puget Sound region, we happened to visit the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.  Curators had worked with Paul Owen Lewis to create life-sized illustrations from Storm Boy, and it was a magical experience to be able to walk into the world of the story.  It was really fun, all these years later, to have an opportunity to bring the story to life with my puppets!

Afterwards, one of the mothers told me that it was her first time to bring her son to our Page Presents class. She raved about the puppet show and told me that she wished that they had been coming all along. 

Several parents of quite young kids have started coming because they say that their children really love seeing the puppets, and they really get into Mr. Matt’s participatory rhythm and movement segment.

For our craft, we made Orca masks, really more like visors.

The George Washington Orca

Avery’s brother Eli informed me that he was a George Washington Orca.  Who knew?

The Princess Orca

A lovely little girl whose crown I mistook for a spout corrected me and declared that she was a Princess Orca.  Her mask also seemed to have ornaments attached to the pectoral fins.

I really love it when the kids use their imaginations to create something unique!

But I can’t help wishing that I had found out more about the George Washington Orca…

Check out the amazing pod of little Orcas that we had swimming through the library after this week’s Page Presents show!


Zoom Upstream

by Vicky on July 11, 2010

At this week’s Page Presents class, I finally got to try out my experiment of reading the book, Zoom Away, by Tim Wynne-Jones and illustrated by Eric Beddows, while projecting large images from the book.

I borrowed a laptop and computer from a neighboring branch, and the experiment was a striking success!  The kids got caught up in the story and the images as I read the book with help from my puppet Zoom, who commented on the events and added lots of exciting details.

Zoom Upstream is the third book in the Zoom Trilogy, and Zoom has not yet gotten to meet his seafaring Uncle Roy, skipper of the Catship.  Zoom is pruning roses with Maria in her garden one autumn day when the phone rings.  When Maria doesn’t return, Zoom goes inside to investigate and finds a note from Maria saying that Uncle Roy had called and there was no time to lose. 

Zoom follows her muddy footprints through the house to a tall bookcase where light is shining through the space where a book has been removed.  When he climbs up to it, he discovers a staircase made of books that spirals down to a levee next to a dark river.

Making a raft from a packing case, Zoom has an adventurous trip down the river and fetches up at an ancient Egyptian tomb where he rejoins Maria.  As drums boom and echo through the dark corridors of the tomb (aided by Mr. Matt), they have close encounters with mummies and living cats in hats conducting mysterious ceremonies with hissing chants (the kids chanted along with the cats).  Then Zoom and Maria discover a trail of Uncle Roy’s buttons and find themselves in a hall lined with monumental statues of “towering, glowering cats, whose eyes [follow] them.”

Although it has its scary moments, the story ends happily when they emerge from the tomb onto a pier where a rowboat awaits them.  They see the Catship at anchor under a crescent moon.  As they row out to the clipper, they can hear a concertina and someone singing.

Zoom can’t speak for smiling when he finally meets his Uncle Roy, a large yellow tomcat in a captain’s hat.  His happiness is complete when Roy invites him to join a voyage of discovery to find the source of the Nile.

Then they all sail off together into their next adventure.

Eric Beddows’ richly detailed black and white illustrations perfectly complement the text.  The three books of the Zoom Trilogy are classics in the best tradition of children’s literature.

I was worried that the story might be too long for my preschool audience, but they were completely under its spell.  Near the end of the story, when Zoom and Maria are rowing out to the Catship, I began playing the sea chantey “Homeward Bound,” sung by Stuart M. Frank (from the Smithsonian Folkways compilation, Classic Maritime Music).

It was the perfect ending to the story and everyone began dancing along with the music.

Then we made gorgeous “towering, glowering” cat masks.


More Origami Fish!

by Vicky on July 11, 2010

We folded fish at this week’s Summer Reading Program origami workshop, but only one model was repeated from our monthly Origami Cool Zone meeting last week

In addition to the easy origami goldfish that begins like a samurai helmet, we learned another origami goldfish as well as a great new swimming fish model from Paul Jackson’s new collection, Origami Toys That Tumble, Fly, and Spin.

Jackson’s fish is easy to fold and flips back and forth as you rub its tail fin pieces between your thumb and forefinger!  It was good to pair with the second goldfish model because the initial folds are the same.

I can’t wait to try out more models from this book!


Origami Cool Zone: Fish and Fun!

by Vicky on July 5, 2010

In keeping with our Summer Reading Program theme, we made a splash with fish at the July meeting of the Origami Cool Zone!

Our featured models were an easy goldfish variation of the samurai helmet and an intermediate angelfish.  Even the very young kids were successful with both models.

I was afraid that we would have a smaller group this time because of the holiday weekend, but we still had around 40 people of all ages.  Everyone folded extra goldfish to leave at the library so we can add a school of fish to our Summer Reading Program decor.

As always, people shared other models during the origami swap, so everyone had a chance to be a teacher as well as a student.

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More Drumming @ Page Presents!

by Vicky on July 5, 2010

This week’s Page Presents class featured a great story I learned from my friend, Emmanuel Agboloso, who taught economics and political science at Diné College when I was the instruction/distance services librarian there.  Emmanual, who was from Ghana, told this story at our very first Tellabration event in November 2005 that we held as part of our Friday Nights @ the Library coffeehouse series.  Dressed magnificently in a Ghanaian smock, he danced and sang as he told his tale of that tricky fellow, Tortoise.

As I researched other versions of the story, I found a much darker version, and I wondered if Emmanuel had adapted the story for his Navajo audience and added the gambling element because we were moving into the winter storytelling season which is also the time when the Shoe Game is played.  Unfortunately, I can’t ask him now because he has passed away. I miss him.

In Emmanuel’s version, the Tortoise played the guitar and sang.  In my version, the Tortoise became a drummer because our branch manager Linda decided to let me have our stash of collected coffee cans for this week’s craft.  So I planned an extra special drumming event!

Our page, Andrew, agreed to come early and join Matt for a drumming extravaganza.  Matt came equipped with large plastic buckets, and he reviewed the marketplace rhythm that the kids had been learning.  Then he had Andrew play the marketplace rhythm and he taught the kids to clap a series of 16 eighth notes in time with the rhythm.

Next he had them clap 8 quarter notes.  Soon he had them switching between the two counter-rhythms as Andrew held the basic rhythm.

It sounded fantastic!  The kids could really keep the beat, and hearing how their rhythms meshed with the marketplace rhythm was thrilling.

Then we got to put this together with some music, and Matt and Andrew took turns holding the marketplace rhythm while the other riffed more complex patterns.

The kids loved it!

Then it was time for our story.  In my version of the story, Monkey hears marvelous sounds of drumming and singing one day as he is going about his business in the forest.  He follows the sounds and discovers Tortoise singing and drumming away.  The two become friends and move in together, but Tortoise makes Monkey promise to never ever tell anyone about his music-making.  Monkey agrees, and they live together happily until one day when Monkey happens to be hanging out with some friends who start boasting.

As the competing boasts escalate, Monkey forgets his promise and brags that he knows a Tortoise who can drum and sing.  No one believes him, but the gossip spreads about Monkey’s boast, and soon the chief (played by Page the Bookworm, co-host of Page Presents) hears about it.  He summons Monkey and demands that he produce this singing and drumming tortoise.    When Monkey tells Tortoise that the chief wants to see him perform, Tortoise can’t believe that his friend broke his promise.  He withdraws into his shell and refuses to come out.  Monkey eventually heaves Tortoise onto his back and hauls him back to the chief’s house.

The chief wagers that Tortoise is just an ordinary tortoise.  Monkey bets everything he has that Tortoise is an extraordinary musician.

And that’s how Monkey lost his shirt.

He is laughed out of town, but by now everyone is tired and hungry and cranky.  “I think this Tortoise is good only for supper,” declares the chief.

At this point the Tortoise has to come out of his shell and plead for his life, and reluctantly proves that he can indeed drum and sing.  The chief thinks he can win a lot of bets with this Tortoise, so he insists that the Tortoise stay with him.

“But I know so many other tortoise musicians!” says Tortoise.  “I have one friend who plays the guitar, and another who plays the flute, and another who plays the violin—why, you could have a whole Tortoise Orchestra!  Let me just go and bring them back with me and then what music-making you will hear!”

The chief agrees to this, and Tortoise leaves…never to be seen or heard of again.  And to this day, no one has ever again seen a tortoise singing or playing a musical instrument.

And all because of a broken promise.

After the story, Matt and Andrew jammed while the kids made their coffee can drums.


Folding Frogs!

by Vicky on July 5, 2010

This week our Summer Reading Program origami workshop for kids featured frogs.  First I taught them a very simple hopping frog model that really leaps impressive distances!  I had folded a less complex version by Davis Jacque which is very cute, and then I had a jumping competition between that model and a slightly more complex version.  After demonstrating the vastly superior leaping ability of the second model, I proceeded to show the kids how to make their own.

Then we moved on to the much more complex traditional origami frog.  This was harder for the kids, who did not have much origami experience.  The teens who attended were able to make the series of progressively smaller reverse folds to form the legs, elbows, and wrists of the frogs, but the younger kids were ready to call it good when they had four recognizable appendages.  But everyone had a great time and was very happy with their frogs.

One of our staff members had the cool idea of folding origami frogs to tuck into this year’s great winner of the Newbery Medal for children’s literature, When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead.  Because Miranda, the main character, folds origami frogs as gifts, my colleague Heather thought it would be cool for kids to discover an origami frog inside when they check out the book, so I’ve gotten some practice folding frogs this year!