Oh, Snap!

oh snap

These snap-tastic alligator puppets are adorable…and hungry! But what do you feed a story time alligator? Literally, anything!

We read Suddenly Alligator, written by Rick Walton, and illustrated by Jim Bradshaw (Gibbs Smith, 2004). When a young man’s socks hit the 3 month “no wash” limit, he heads to town to purchase a new pair. Along the way, an alligator gives chase. Nothing in the boy’s pockets seem to thwart this ferocious beast, until the alligator gets a whiff of the boy’s socks. Much to his relief, it knocks the alligator right out! In addition to hilarious illustrations of the ferocious, relentless alligator, the book ends each section with an adverb – anxiously, cautiously, hungrily, boldly, desperately, fondly – making it a fantastically funny read aloud.

You’ll need:

  • 1 large large tissue box
  • Green construction paper
  • Green poster board
  • White card stock
  • 1 alligator puppet mouth template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • 2 jumbo pom-poms
  • Scissors, tape, and a stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating

In the book, the alligator devours a pair of pliers the boy throws at him. We thought it would be funny to make a puppet that eats things too. In this case, a plastic ball:

First, cut one end off a tissue box. This is where your alligator’s mouth will attach. Next, cut extra space around the tissue-dispensing slit. This allows the puppeteer’s hand to move more freely, and makes it easier to remove objects the alligator has “eaten.”

underside of alligator puppet The alligator’s mouth consists of 2 “mouth pockets.” Print the template, and then cut 2 top mouth pockets out of green poster board. Staple the 2 pieces together to form a pocket:

mouth pocket Now tape the mouth pocket to the top of the tissue box. Important! Just tape the TOP piece of the mouth pocket to the box. You’ll need to leave the bottom piece free so you can slip your fingers into the pocket and operate the puppet. Here’s a photo of the taped mouth pocket. I used red masking tape so you can see what I’m describing more clearly:

taping puppet mouth Repeat the above steps with the bottom mouth pocket, then add card stock teeth to the mouth. To operate the puppet, slide your fingers in the top mouth pocket, and your thumb in the lower mouth pocket.

hand in alligator puppet mouthHere’s the finished alligator…we used green construction paper for the body, and green poster board for the legs and tail. Notice that the legs dangle off the bottom of the box with tape hinges – the puppet sits better in your arms that way. The eyes are jumbo pom-poms with dot sticker pupils (paper circles work too). We also offered green self-adhesive foam shapes for additional texture (or just use markers).

finished alligator puppet Each kid got to take home a plastic ball for the alligator to consume, but as the kids milled around the gallery, the alligators started eating EVERYTHING. Scarves, pens, socks, hats…if it fit in the box, the gator consumed it!

Tachi-e Puppets

tach-i puppetsFlip the puppet back and forth to reveal a simple, dynamic story! This project was part of our library’s World Kamishibai Day performance. Called tachi-e (“standing pictures”), the puppets originate from 19th century Japan.

You’ll need:

  • 2 rectangles of white paper
  • 2 rectangles of black poster board
  • 1 pair of new, intact chopsticks
  • Scissors and glue for construction
  • Markers, pens, and color pencils for decorating
  • Hot glue

A tachi-e puppet is two sided. The first side is the puppet at rest, then quickly flip it to create a change. This Japanese lantern ghost was designed by artist Tara McGowan:

lantern ghost by tara mcgowanIt’s way cooler to see the puppet in action though…

First, draw a 2-step sequential scene on 2 separate rectangles of white paper. Cut each drawing out, then glue each on a rectangle of black poster board (our rectangles were 5.5″ x 8.5″). Hot glue a pair of new, intact chopsticks to the back of the first poster board rectangle, then hot glue the second poster board rectangle on top of it. Twirl the stick to operate the puppet!

The kids had some great idea for puppets. I managed to snap a couple. A hatching chick…

chicken duo

A budding tree (with squirrels running up the trunk!)…

tree duoA very sweet butterfly…

butterfly duoA single fish that goes “Pop!” and turns into a school of fish…

fish duoAn exploding firework…

bam duoAnd a girl that duplicates into 5 girls!

girl duoIf that last one seems a little confusing, it was inspired by a kamishibai performance of Manmaru manma tantakatan (written by Fumiko Araki, and illustrated by Takuya Kusumi). It’s about a ninja boy who duplicates himself to foil a wicked serpent.


From Amazon

Don’t Worry, Be Crabby

don't worry be crabby

Did you know that hermit crabs are surprisingly multi-talented? In fact, they can do anything you can do, and we aim to prove it with this awesome hermit crab hand puppet!

We read Never Underestimate a Hermit Crab by Daniel Sean Kaye (Silver Dragon Books, 2013). You might think hermit crabs are boring. But the truth is, they love to dance, read comics, do home improvement, dress to the nines, and generally live it up. They can do all sorts of things – just like you!

You’ll need:

  • 1 small box (ours was 4.5” X 4.5” x 6”)
  • 2 paper cups
  • White poster board
  •  Hermit crab decorating supplies (more on this later!)
  • Scissors, glue, and tape for construction
  • Hot glue

finished hermit crabAssembling this hand puppet is incredibly easy. The eye stalks are made with white poster board (we used dot stickers for the pupils, but markers work too). Next, cut 2 paper cups cut down to 2.5″ and attach them to the bottom of the box. Notice that the narrower, tapered ends of the cups are towards the front of the box, and the edges of the cups are flush with the front of the box as well. Attach the cups with hot glue, and then reinforce them with tape so they really stay on!

hermit crab cupsThe shell is a 6.75″ x 17″ piece of white poster board arched over the box and secured to the sides of the box with tape or hot glue. The shell sticks out behind the box about 1.5″ to hide the puppeteers arms a little.

hermit crab shellWe recommend decorating the shell before you attach it to the box of course. We brought out patterned tape, color masking tape, fabric flowers, sparkle stems, craft ties, self-adhesive foam shapes, ribbon, and the Bling Bin.

finished hermit crabTo operate the puppet, simply slide your hands into the paper cups. To celebrate the book’s can-do attitude about the abilities of hermit crabs, we played a couple rounds of crab soccer with jumbo pom-poms and little plastic basket goals. Score!

crab soccer

Our copy of Never Underestimate a Hermit Crab is a special edition to benefit PAWS (Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society). PAWS is a non-profit that serves pet owners and rescue organization that help Philly’s 30,000 homeless, unwanted, and abandoned pets get basic care. I just wanted to give a shout out to Daniel Sean Kaye and Silver Dragon Books for their big, caring, hearts.