Thursday, March 01, 2007
My Write Away (pen pal club) program has been a very rewarding experience. I run the program at all three branches, and each group is a wonderful and unique group. Although the age range for the group is 7-12, the majority of the children are in the 9-11 range. The exception is my Marshall Write Away program, where the children are in the 7-9 range, with most in the 7-8 range. Those of you who have experience working with children know that there are significant differences between a 9-11 ages group and a 7-9 ages group. The children need more hands-on help and repeated/reworded instructions than the older children. The children are eager, enthusiastic, and bright, but they definitely have different needs than do the older children.
Although I begin each program with the same story, I usually do not use the same book for the Marshall program as I do for the Warrenton and Bealeton program. Since I was telling an Anansi tale, I really wanted a non-Anansi story. While browsing the 398 section yesterday (hours before I needed to leave for Marshall), I stumbled upon Too Much Talk.
I had heard a great telling of this story when I was in the Houston area. It’s a funny and crazy story, with ample opportunities to ham it up. But was it a Ghanaian folktale?
I looked at the flap jacket, and what did I see? “Stefano Vitale’s striking illustrations evoke the story’s Ghanaian origins.
Did the kids like it? They thought it was great! They loved the telling of Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock, and they laughed out loud during Too Much Talk.
Very satisfying, indeed.
So, what’s the story? It all starts on an ordinary day for a farmer digging yams. The day quickly changed from ordinary to surreal when the yam began to talk to him.
“You did not water me. You did not weed me. And here you come to dig me up!”
The farmer asks his dog if he was talking to him. Nope. It was the yam.
The farmer meets up with a fisherman, who asks him why he was running at the hottest time of the day. The farmer insists that his yam and his dog talked, but the fisherman refuses to believe him, until the fish tells him otherwise.
This goes on and on, adding a weaver, a swimmer, and finally, the chief. Chief threatens to throw them in jail for acting so idiotic, and orders them to go away.
The chief scoffs at such nonsense. A talking yam!
The chief gets the surprise of his life.
This story is tons of fun to tell. I know some folks don’t enjoy reading/telling stories that require a multitude of voices. What’s great about this story is that you can make up any voice you want for the yam, the fish, the cloth, the water, and the other talking objects in the story. The only animal in the story is the dog, and everybody can do a dog voice. Asking the children to shout “Aiyeee” with you adds audience participation to this rollicking folktale. The book is appropriate for children as young as preschool age, but as my Write Away kids showed yesterday, 7-9 year olds love it as well.