World of Shadow

World of Shadow; Teaching With Shadow Puppetry, by David and Donna Wisniewski. Englewood, Colorado: Teacher Ideas Press, 1996. ISBN 1-56308-450-3 $24 260 pp.

At long last a book on shadow puppetry which explains the technique in clear and simple terms that librarians, teachers and students, and storytellers who do workshops with children can understand and use. The emphasis is on fun, not mathematical distortions. I only wish it had come out years ago.

The authors are professional puppeteers who have tested their material in schools, and know how to capture the imagination. They are also very practical. The opening chapter explains what source of light to use (would you believe a simple overhead? ) and the advantages and disadvantages of different screens. Their ideas are simple enough to use even in an elementary school. In fact, they have done shadow puppetry with children as young as three. They even have a suggested pattern to explain how it all works.

One of my favourite exercises was riding the Shadow Horse. When the puppet is put against the screen it is very small, but when it is put on the overhead it grows large enough for the children to pretend to ride it when they go behind the screen. There are easy scripts based on songs, nursery rhymes and familiar fairy tales, and patterns are included for making simple rod puppets. Control rods are made of easy to find .materials: bamboo sticks or flexible straws and masking tape. Using basic shapes like circles, squares, triangles and rectangles, even young children can design their own puppets.

Designing the scenery looked the most fun of all. Fantastic effects are suggested using plastic gel, wax paper, even a pan of water with food colouring, oil and alka-seltzer. Remember that roll of plastic for the overhead? It can be used for moving scenery. More advanced information is included for older children towards the end of the book, as well as scripts and suggestions for plays, and ways to involve all the children in the classroom in the productions.

The authors claim that production, rehearsal, and performance of one of their simple plays can all be done in a week, even with three to five year olds. If you follow their suggestions I'm sure it can.

I found their book to be very practical, non-threatening, and user-friendly. In fact, I loaned it to a grade one teacher, and in order to get it back I had to promise to help her produce some shadow plays. I can hardly wait to see the looks on the children's faces as they explore the wonderful world of shadow puppetry with this creative and imaginative book.

Available on Amazon and Kindle

Reviewed by Beverly Matson

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

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