Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wait, Mr. Elephant!

I've been at CLA for most of the day. My first day at my first professional conference. Why, I almost feel like a real grown-up!

The last workshop I went to was the best. It was about Kamishibai, a traditional Japanese storytelling format. It's kind of like a cross between a slide presentation and a flannel board story. Kamishibai stories usually consist of about 10 large cards that have illustrations on the front and cues/the text of the story on the back. You flip the cards as you tell the story, just like you would flip pages. Only, the illustrations are always facing the audience, because you don't need to twist the pictures around to read the text, which lets you stay more engaged with your audience and lets kids really study the pictures. Often they are displayed in theatre shaped frames.

They can also be very interactive. The first story we listened to was called Larger, larger, larger!. The storyteller had us repeat "grow larger, larger, larger!" (in Japanese!) before she would flip the card to reveal the huge pig, huge egg, etc. (And I'll just note here that while this may seem like no more than just good fun to a lot of people, one of the things they go over in our storytelling workshops is that toddlers and preschoolers need as much practice speaking as they do listening. Giving them meaningful phrases to repeat helps develop language skills, especially among very young children and ESL learners. Personally, I also think that experiences like this help kids to think of themselves as writers as well as readers. And better writers make better readers.)

The people that did the presentation had a few really nice kamishibai stories for sale based on folktales around the world,* but we all couldn't get over the modern samples they'd brought over from Japan, especially the stories for preschoolers. Which, unfortunately, aren't available for sale in the US.

Turns out, they are available for sale outside of Japan - just still not in the US!

This is either a Dutch or a Belgian site that sells Kamishibai, and it has some of the cards they showed us during the workshop.

I loved this one, called Strong Together! (Or Together we are Strong! I'm not quite sure.) Besides being insanely cute, the pictures tell the story enough on their own that you can tell the basic plot of the story even though the cues on the back of the cards weren't translated: A gray spiky ball that is at least three times as large as each of the squares comes along and scares the squares away. The squares are sad. The squares cry. But the squares have an idea; they climb on top of one another to make a tower. Now they are taller than gray spiky ball. Now gray spiky ball is scared and runs away.

I really, really, really want The Round Greedy Trolls too. Which, apparently, teaches math and sharing by having the three round, greedy trolls fight over two ice cream cones.

*Speaking of which, is having a kid hatch out of vegetation a common occurrence in Japanese folktales? ^.^ I suppose that would explain a lot of my favorite manga.


bellatrys said...

well, Momotaro (the peach boy) is a traditional Japanese story, I don't know how many other similar stories there are but Momotaro is a very popular old one (like our "Gingerbread Boy" I guess) based on how many illos to it I've seen in art books over the years, so I'm not surprised that the theme has become popular in manga too.

Mickle said...

The Moon Princess was another tale they told us, and it has a girl who is found in the stalk of - I can't remember what anymore. And the Monkey King (not human or a kid, but still...) was born fully formed from some kind of fruit as well.

So, it's more than there seems to be some significance to having kids hatch out of vegetation, and I'm rather curious as to what it is.

I suppose bothering to do some research might help. :)