Storytelling Made Easy With Puppets

Storytelling Made Easy With Puppets by Jan Van Schuyver. mus by Ellen Kae Hester. Phoenix: Oryx Press.1993. ISBN 0-89774-732-1 $24.95 147pp.

The right book at the right time is worth its weight in gold, and that is just what this book could be to a beginning storyteller and puppeteer. Jan Van Schuyver has had more than twenty years experience as a teacher, puppeteer and storyteller, and she passes on her knowledge and expertise in a precise, clear and creative manner. Even an experienced storyteller will fjnd useful ideas in this book.

Using a puppet can take the focus away from the new teller and by so doing can increase her confidence. The puppet also helps to capture the attention of the audience. It will be tempting to go right to the story or song you find appealing jn the book, but you should really take the time to read the introductions to the chapters. Van Schuyver gives excellent tips and advice on how to proceed. For example, she suggests that the new teller start out using the puppet only to introduce the story, rather than to tell it. The next step would then be to use the puppet to lead a song, allowing the music to help animate the puppet.

I think the best advice she gives is to always let the children see the puppet alive. In other words, never put the puppet on or off in view of the children, but conceal it in a bag, box, pocket or drawer. For very young children this is particularly important as they really believe in the life of the puppet. When you take the puppet off in front of them it is as if you killed it.

There is a section on simple puppet activities children can do, as well as a section on puppetry hints and resources. She even gives advice on how to make different voices. For example, for a very old person, curl your lips over your teeth.

The puppets she uses are hand puppets, finger puppets, pop-up puppets and rod puppets, and she gives directions for making them. She says, "one puppet, a carefully chosen story, and a skilful storyteller can create as much drama, excitement as a dozen puppets housed in a complex theatre...The possibilities are limited only by your time and imagination." In her closing chapter she gives sources for purchasing puppets and suggests puppetry organizations you can join.

I loaned this book to a primary teacher at the beginning of the year and her students are now avid puppeteers as as well as storytellers. It was also exciting to see how their creative writing improved. They caught on quickly that stories needed beginnings, middles and ends, and most important of all, conflict. I highly recommend this book.

Reviewed by Beverly Matson

Second Story Review, Vol 2, No 1 - Mar 1997

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