Old Woman, gray goose, with Baby Twiggy in the bed, and the yarn-snake in the background.
For teachers of young children like myself who are weary of apple crafts… to those of you trying to home school all Waldorf style… September in Houston can be frustrating. Ain’t no apples. Ain’t no crisp leaves. Ain’t no harvest we can see.
But there are…. TWIGS!
I love dead sticks!
A great story for autumn-not-autumn is “Twiggy”. A Ukrainian tale, I first discovered this story about a twig that comes to life in the Acorn Hill book of Waldorf songs, circle games and stories, “Let us form a Ring“. Basically, an old couple longs for a child. The old woman finally just takes a stick and begins to love and care for it as if it were a baby. One day the stick comes to life, and “Twiggy” the sweet little twig child learns who he can trust, and whom he shouldn’t.
I chose it to make a puppet show of because (as some of y’all may know) my deepest dreams are fulfilled when children play with sticks. After the show, the children searched the playground for the perfect Twiggy, and made him boats and homes from little boxes. They were so deeply in the moment and as happy playing with their Twiggys as they were with the plastic sand toys.
Of course, if you would like to tell this tale to young children, you don’t need to make a full on puppet show at all. You can use just… a stick. Anything can be a puppet. As the wonderful Houston puppeteer David Caranza (of Caranza Puppets) says, a puppet is nothing but an inanimate object you seemingly make “come alive”. So the old lady can be your finger, the goose your hand, the snake a bit of yarn (as my snake puppet is). And the imagination of the tiny child will do the rest!
A SunBee mom lent me a lovely new edition of The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen. (Anyone who knows my love of vintage illustration will realize why I love this book!) It’s also available at the Jung Center bookstore in Houston. We are immersing ourselves in “The Ugly Duckling” and “Thumbelina” in SunBee this month. Both are tales of a highly sensitive being who doesn’t fit in, but come spring time, each finds their place in the world.
Thumblina (Illustration by Brooke Bailey)
Andersen’s tales are richly visual and have inspired many artists including myself. So it seemed like a good time to try shadow puppets with the kids, which I have always wanted to do ever since learning the technique from artist Justin Dunford at Gina Vazquez’s wonderfully creative summer camp Flor y Canto several summers ago. Justin’s materials were very simple: the sort of thin cardboard cereal boxes are made of, tape, and those very thin shish kebab sticks. Because my kids are much younger than the kids at that camp, I used straws (less poky), animal foam stickers, doilies, and some stencils for the kids to trace.
You draw or trace your character on the cardboard, cut it out, and tape it on a straw. So much for puppets.
For the theater, I used a packing box and white paper, and duct tape for the edges. I got the idea from this link about how to make a simple theater. The only thing I changed: I kept a sort of “frame” around the “screen” to prevent the whole box from flopping over and taking a nap mid-performance.
The kids enjoyed this so much one rainy afternoon that we will be working on it all of March! To the stage!