Molly’s Magic Pencil: The Blue Genie

     Peter Davies’ second book, The Blue Genie,  in the Molly’s Magic Pencil series is an ideal picture book to use for dramatization.  With only four prominent characters in the story, our family of four had no problem in dealing with lack of participation.  Having short jumpers the squirts consider “genie” outfits, I figured the two girls would be taking turns playing the Blue Genie.  Instead, they both chose to play the protagonist’s part, Molly.
      So, we dug in closets for red (okay, hot pink) outfits to mimic Molly’s red jumper.  Then, backpacks were filled with paper and the crucial Magic Pencil.  By default, the hub played Blue Genie since he was wearing a blue shirt and blue jeans, and I was inevitably Mrs. Jones, the tearful geriatric lady (I’m being typecast already, yet still a month away from 40) whose cat, Tiddles (played by our stuffed black cat), is stranded high on a tree limb.

Tiddles stranded in the tree.

     Since each squirt wanted the spotlight to herself, we rehearsed the scene several times (more than I had planned) in our backyard (luckily, the neighbors already know we’re nutty) each time alternating the actress who portrayed Molly.                           

Take 1:  Molly #1 searching in her backpack for the Magic Pencil.

                                                                               

Take 1:  Molly #1 drawing a teapot.
Take 21:  Molly #2 searching in her backpack for the Magic Pencil.
Take 21:  Molly #2 drawing a teapot.
The Blue Genie saves Tiddles.

      When every blank space on the paper had been filled with a drawing of a teapot,  we brought the dramatization to a close by singing the first verse of, “I’m a Little Teapot.”  Bedtime was accomplished only with a sincere promise, “Yes, we will act out The Blue Genie again tomorrow.”


Peter Davies

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Experiencing Tuesdays with Morrie*

*I write a lot about experiencing the novel through crafts, snacks, field trips, dramatization, etc. This blog will discuss experiencing Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie through its dramatization which my husband and I attended June 12, 2011.  This blog, though, is written in celebration of the life of Michelle Conrady-Brown, born June 27, 1977.  Having only met Michelle a handful of times through her sister, my friend Ash, I felt as if I had known her for years due to her warmth and smile.  A loving mother to Avery and Nora, devoted wife, and tireless social worker, she is remembered forever in our hearts.
Michelle Conrady-Brown
     Having purchased my tickets for the play, Tuesdays with Morrie, I wanted to read the non-fiction work written by Mitch Albom prior to performance night.  Having downloaded this book on my phone, I intentionally learned how to use the digital highlighter thingy ma bob because of the thought-provoking aphorisms (these quotes will definitely find their way onto my chalkboard) at nearly every turn of the page.  The vivid descriptions of Morrie’s debilitating disease brought to mind memories of my own father’s gruesome death at the hands of cancer, and, thus, streams of tears from my eyes.  Yet, I do not walk away from the reading of Tuesdays with Morrie with mere sadness at the loss of Morrie, a contributing member of society, but sadness overshadowed by the motivation to do more with one’s life with the end goal of not benefiting oneself, but benefiting others.
    Thus “date night” arrived, and the hub begrudgingly agreed to accompany me to see the enactment of Tuesdays with Morrie (although X-Men: First Class would have been his choice).  This play, directed by Tom Corbett, had a one-night production at Troy United Methodist Church.  The two-man cast from the Ricks-Weil Theatre Company comprised Gary Roberts as Mitch Albom and Thom Johnson as Morrie Schwartz.  There was no changing of scenery, no intermission, and only slight costume changes.  Yet, the passing of twenty years and the suggestion of an accompanying cast through the use, for example, of an empty chair was achieved.  This play was able to portray the love between these two human beings as well as the rapid progression of ALS in a meager 90 minutes.  What impressed upon me the most was the creative usage of lighting.  At one point, Mitch’s wife, Janine (i.e. the character in the empty chair), visits Morrie.  A singer, she agrees to sing for Morrie at his request.  Morrie, in turn, closes his eyes in order to be in the moment and savor this gift of her voice (which is a recording played in the background).  After Morrie closes his eyes, the stage as well as the church’s Family Living Center, where the stage is placed, goes dark- unable to see my hand in front of my face dark.  Thus, the audience’s eyes are shut, too, in order to accompany Morrie in the present.  The play ended with roaring applause, and then there was an unusual quietness where, I guessed, people were lost in thought instigated by the play in much the same manner as the hub and I were.  The majority of the ride home was comfortable silence interrupted only with our agreeing that we both thoroughly enjoyed Tuesdays with Morrie.  I will now close with one of Morrie’s aphorisms for the road, this journey we call life, “Devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

Doctor De Soto by William Steig

     As part of the homework assignment for Reading Camp, we were to choose a picture book from the reading list provided and then partake in a dramatization of the story.  As luck would have it, William Steig’s Doctor De Soto, a Newberry Honor Book happened to be on our bookshelf.  No hasty trips to the library for this assignment.  Score!
     Main characters Dr. De Soto and his wife, Mrs. De Soto, work tirelessly on various patients’ teeth such as moles, chipmunks, and pigs.  Due to De Soto being a mouse, he took extra precautions against any potential patients that may cause harm to himself or his wife.  Outside the office, a wailing fox begged for treatment, and De Soto and his wife, from the kindness of their hearts, relented and decided to treat him.  A fox is a fox is a fox, so inevitably, his ulterior motives surfaced.  Yet, in the end, De Soto and his wife were able to successfully outfox the fox.
     A perfect choice to read before a dental visit or perhaps a field trip to a dentist’s office.  In our case, the squirts and I each chose a character from the story to reenact.  Being the largest of the bunch, I was the sly fox and used my spooky voice in the retelling.  My girls furiously worked on my teeth with their invisible instruments and finally sent me on my way with an intentional dose of artificially created lockjaw.
      For snack, an ideal time to reaffirm the healthy snack option- Green Meanies, mouths made from healthy food options – in lieu of sugary snacks as an attempt to keep dental work at bay.  If there is time, I have found that I cannot go wrong with sticker scenes with my squirts and their friends.  Oriental Trading offers Make-a-Dental Sticker Sheets which reaffirms the theme of the story.

Reading Level:  Ages 4-8
William Steig

Reading Camp Rocks- Week 1

 

     My soon-to-be kindergartner and I enrolled in a Reading Camp (the name I assigned in order to create excitement) or more formally termed a summer reading program offered by Saint Louis University and taught by the Institute of Reading Development with a friend and her son.  This being a parent/child class, I am sure it comes as no surprise that we, the parents, were much more motivated by the anticipated learning of teaching strategies and learning skills.  Our squirts, on the other hand, were moved by our hopeful promises of, quite simply, fun (see picture below, but ignore the mess in the background).

Reading Camp here we come!

     Thus, with GPS in hand and hyper children in tow, we made our way to Reading Camp which happened to be housed in a local high school.  What ensued was a stimulating 90 minutes.  A young graduate student facilitated the class and brought us to attention by teaching us attentive faces (wish I had thought of that when I was teaching)- large eyes and small mouths. 

Attentive Face

Being in this secondary classroom, my inner immature desire to fool around just a bit behind the teacher’s back was immediately quashed, and I was soon modeling excellent behavior by sitting up straight in my chair.
     The icebreaker involved students telling their names (after being called upon) with the teacher circling the coordinating letter on the board that begins the name.  I was giddy when a young student announced her name was the same as mine only with a different spelling (okay, I am a big kid at heart).  What was endearing, though, was remembering the pride at this age associated with one’s name (before wishing for another name-aaah, how I longed to be “Melissa” for years) as well as the self-confidence one gains when knowing how to spell his/her name.
     After some rhyming activities with eager participation, the teacher read us Caps for Sale as we “followed along” at our seats.  After a retelling of the story, students chose a character from the book he/she wished to enact, and a dramatization was soon in full force at the front of the classroom under the teacher’s guidance.  A goofy smile spread across my face as this activity brought to mind my own fond memory of my half-day kindergarten eons ago when we acted out Goldilocks and the Three Bears on what seems to me now a daily basis (a shout out to Mrs. Ziegler!).
     Camp ended with a telling of our homework assignments for the week.  Stay tuned for more Reading Camp Rocks as well as an upcoming Book Partay.