Gator Gumbo

by Vicky on May 24, 2010

This week’s Page Presents show featured the book, Gator Gumbo: A Spicy Hot Tale, by Candace Fleming with illustrations by Sally Anne Lambert.

Set in the bayous of Louisiana, it’s the story of Monsieur Gator, an aged and scrawny fellow who has grown sadly resigned to a vegetarian diet and the taunts and jibes of his former prey (who are all too aware that he is now too slow to catch them).

This book’s Cajun lingo makes it a natural for storytelling.  Because of my available finger puppets, I changed two of the small mean animals in the story.  Instead of Madame Skunk, Monsieur Otter, and Mademoiselle Possum, we had Madame Skunk, Monsieur Weasel, and Mademoiselle Crow.

The repetitions are delicious, as M. Gator asks who will help him with each step of the recipe, the little animals rudely refuse, and M. Gator imperturbably says, “Then I will just have to do it myself.”  Still, they can’t help moving one step closer to the pot as they sniff the increasingly irresistible aromas, and M. Gator declares, with each new ingredient,  “Almost like Maman used to make!”

I did my best to channel Justin Wilson, the Cookin’ Cajun.  I especially love the story he tells in this show.

Suffice it to say that, at the end of Gator Gumbo, M. Gator pronounces with satisfaction,  “Mmmmhmmmm…..just like Maman used to make!”

Mr. Matt taught everyone the Hand Jive clapping rhythm (a clavé style second line rhythm used in New Orleans funk.  Everyone caught on to that, so he taught us a variation, and we all clapped our way through Iko Iko.

Have I mentioned that one of the things I love most about Mr. Matt’s Minute is that we get to expose kids to real music from around the world?

(As opposed to kiddie music.)  Don’t get me wrong, there’s some great music out there composed expressly for children.  But kids love music, so why not expose them to the full gamut?

We played Cajun music all during our craft time, and one little girl told me as she danced with her alligator puppet, “I love music, and I just love to dance.  I really really like this music!”

I pushed the envelope a little too far with this week’s paper bag alligator puppet.  I knew that kids would need some help with putting the alligator jaws together, but I made sure that there were very simple shapes that kids would find easy to cut out and paste.  So imagine my shock when I noticed almost all of the parents doing all of the cutting and pasting as their kids watched!

I’m guessing that the whole thing looked so complicated that the parents just took over.

At least now I know where the outer edge of the envelope is!  Design constraints, yes!  (Charles Eames: “I don’t remember ever being forced to accept compromises, but I have willingly accepted constraints.”)

Even though they didn’t get to have the fun of making their own puppets, the kids still loved playing with them.

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