My Convertible Life

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday's Five: Children's Books for the Stage

In college, I took a very fun course called "Performance of Children’s Literature" with an amazing professor named Paul Ferguson -- he still teaches the class and I recommend him highly to anyone at UNC who is interested in performance or just wants to try it out.

As a class, we performed excerpts from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, then we did small group performances from children's books that we selected -- I used a couple of stories from The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. I'm sorry to say I didn't turn out to be much of an actress, but I loved the class anyway and enjoyed reading children's books with performance in mind.

The first five children's books I wrote about this spring would all be good in performance, but here are five more books that Junius likes -- and every time I read them, I can picture in my head how they would look and sound on a small stage. Maybe I should send Paul a nudge and see if we can get a show started...
  1. Mercy Watson Fights Crime: Written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen, this is the third title in a chapter-book series about a pig named Mercy who lives with Mr. and Mrs. Watson and loves to eat hot buttered toast. The illustrations and characters are hilarious, and I find that I am incapable of reading this series aloud without adopting a series of very Southern accents. Book 3 continues the characters from the first two, plus a comical little thief/wannabe-cowboy whose robbery attempt is foiled by a certain porcine wonder.

  2. Skippyjon Jones: This is the first in the series by Judy Schachner about a Siamese cat who likes to pretend he's a chihuahua. It's great for reading aloud because of the funny things Skippyjon says (in his best Spanish accent) as he turns into El Skippito Friskito, the great sword fighter, and tackles Alfredo Buzzito, the bad Bumblebeeto (who may or may not actually be the pinata in Skippyjon's closet where he's playing during time-out).

  3. Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!: Words and pictures by Mo Willems make up this series about a funny little pigeon who likes to drive a bus, eat hot dogs and stay up past his bedtime. We particularly like this one because Junius is always trying to stay awake, too, and the interactive style of the main character would work well in a show.

  4. Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type: Written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin, this is one of many very funny books about the clever animals on Farmer Brown's farm who use a typewriter to get what they need. The sound effects would be fun to do in a performance, plus the story is a riot.

  5. The Grouchy Ladybug: Probably everyone knows Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but this book is another one of his his that I just recently discovered (apparently Juni had been reading it at preschool and found it at the library). It includes lessons in telling time and relative size, but it's also a funny tale of a tough-talking ladybug who is continually looking for someone bigger to fight. Would be interesting to try to do this as a two-woman (or two-man) show with one person as the bug and one person as everyone else.
Note: As usual, I have received no compensation from Quail Ridge Books & Music or any of the authors or illustrators of these books. But if you live in Raleigh, you should go to Quail Ridge for all your book purchases. Trust me. And if you don't live in Raleigh and don't have a local independent bookseller, you should buy your books online from QRB -- it's the right thing to do.


  1. We read the last four all the time. Bruce the puppy was almost Skippy in honor of those books, in fact. (A seven year old doing HIS best Spanish accent is absolutely priceless, btw.) Now I will have to find those Mercy books for the boys! Thanks!

  2. This Mother cannot keep her mouth shut:) In ref to Aug. 7. I wish Michael would consider taking Paul Ferfuson's course. He might even like the QRB in Raleigh.


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