PITTSBURG — The curtains raised and the crowd of tots got quiet for a puppet show.
With wiggles all wiggled out, their listening ears on and their lips “quieted,” the story of “Slurping Beauty” began, with the puppets bringing the characters to real life on Tuesday at Pittsburg Public Library.
“I think reading has been summer tradition at libraries from the beginning,” PPL Youth Service Supervisor Gail Sheppard said.
“People come to the libraries of course to get books, buy they come to get an experience,” PPL Director Bev Clarkson said.
The other show on Tuesday was based on the book “Princess and the Pony” by Katie Beaton.
Bev and Gail said their shows are based on literature, either adapted from a book, fairytales and folktales.
“I hate to brag, but they are pretty good,” Bev said. “I feel like it makes this library unique, I don’t know any other library that uses puppets to the extent we do.”
Story time lasts all year long, but with the summer reading program and school being out it makes story time a bit more special as the audience increases, Bev and Gail said. During the school year about 30 students visit the library during for story time. The summertime, however, can bring in over 150 some days.
Bev and Gail said story time is to promote reading and give children a fun experience, which they’ve been doing for about a decade now. The puppet show is to help the children “see the story,” since the groups are too large to each see the pages of the book.
“They remember coming to the library when they were little and seeing the puppet shows,” Bev said. “They see the play and they want to see the book.”
“You would be amazed, when you see these kids — even the little babies — they are just enthralled.”
When they started, they had an old stage that was falling apart. Since then, they have acquired a bonafide puppet stage with a red curtain where the characters come to life.
“It’s a beautiful puppet stage,” Bev said.
“It’s a piece of art,” she said. “We’d roll it in and out but it's just too pretty.”
Technology has also played a part in their storytelling.
All of the puppet shows have music in them in one way or another, including sound effects.
Bev, Gail and the library staff and volunteers all record the stories before the show.
The whole staff is involved so that the characters can have different voices. Some people’s voices are recorded on the weekend and many recordings have been kept over the years for future shows.
The hard part, Bev and Gail said, is finding the scripts.
“We have to take a book and change the narration to have more dialogue,” Bev said. “You have to have a good script.
“It has to work on different levels so the adults could enjoy them along with the kids.”
Gail agreed and said if she, Bev and the others think its entertaining and humorous surely the families will too.
“If we think it’s funny then other people might think its funny too, but humor is a big part of it,” Bev said. “And the kids really do think its magical.”
“It keeps their attention,” Gail said.
The many puppets used — in their little outfits to match the story — bring the stories to life.
“We have hundreds,” Bev said. “Maybe that's an exaggeration, well I bet there is a 100 in there with at least 20 each box.”
Bev and Gail walked over to the cabinet to do an estimation.
They decided there were “a whole closet full,” and they most likely accumulated 100 puppets over time.
Bev’s favorite puppet is BB Wolf, “Bev’s alter ego,” Gail said.
BB is a wolf puppet and the ambassador of story time according to Bev, who has the honor of being BB’s voice.
Once the shows are over, the children go to craft time, which usually reflects the story’s theme. Tuesday, the children decorated paper crowns to go along with the princess stories.
Bev and Gail said they enjoy sharing the stories through puppetry with the children, and most of all they enjoy the delight it brings the children.
“The kids really delight in them,” Bev said.
“It is, I have just as much fun watching the kids,” she said.
Pittsburg Public Library Story Time and events
There’s no sign up for story time. All ages are welcomed.
Summer Reading Program lasts until the end of July.
Story time for kids and families
6:30 p.m. on Monday, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday
Program for kids ages seven to 11
1 p.m. Thursday
For children 10 to 18
1 to 3 p.m. on Monday
For children in 6th through 12th grades
5:30 p.m. on Wednesday
For more information on events at Pittsburg Public Library — including the adult reading program — people can visit pplonline.org
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.