This is what happens when BabyGirl wakes me up at 7:00 on a Sunday morning, and everyone else in the house falls back asleep for two hours: I start planning out our week and before I know it, I’ve happened onto eighteen rabbit-trails that I want to tie together into a spontaneous unit study, if you can call it that.
Today’s rabbit-trail got started when I saw in my calendar that we’re going to see a local opera company’s production of The Three Little Pigs on Friday.
When JediBoy was little, he used to ask me to tell him the story of the Three Little Pigs almost daily as we drove places in the car. I could stretch it out for a long drive or squeeze it together for a trip home from the store. He loved it, but I realized that BabyGirl doesn’t know the story yet. A-ha! We could read it, tell it and play it several times this week so that when we go to the opera on Friday, she’ll have a better idea what’s going on.
I found the four books we had upstairs:
I looked up the seven other versions that were available at our library today:
The Three Little Pigs by Steven Kellogg
The Three Little Pigs by Margot Zemach
The Three Swingin’ Pigs by Vicky Rubin
Three Hungry Pigs and the Wolf Who Came to Dinner by Charles Santores
Where’s the Big Bad Wolf? by Eileen Christelow
Yo, Hungry Wolf! A Nursery Rap by David Vozar
The Three Little Javelinas by Susan Lowell (this one will be a real hit with my kids, as javelina is part of one of BabyGirl’s nicknames!)
A-ha! For 22-month-old BabyGirl, the reading of all these different versions will help make her familiar with the general characters and ideas in this story. For 6-year-old JediBoy, it is a chance to talk about how one story can be read and told in dozens of different ways.
Which is a coincidence. This week we’ll be reading Chapter 11: Ancient Africa from our Story of the World book. There is not much information available in Western libraries and bookstores on Ancient Africa (not counting Egypt, of course). In fact, there’s not much information to be found in the bookstores of South Africa, either – my father was helping us look for sources while he was there this summer. So the Story of the World look at Ancient Africa focuses on Anansi tales. We had one on our shelves – the Gerald McDermott version my sister and I read as kids. Since I had the library website up for the Three Pig Search, I just happened to notice:
Anansi Does The Impossible! retold by Verna Aardema
Anansi Finds a Fool retold by Verna Aardema
Ananse and the Lizard retold by Pat Cummings
Anansi and the Magic Stick retold by Eric Kimmel
Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock retold by Eric Kimmel
Anansi and the Talking Melon retold by Eric Kimmel
Anansi Goes Fishing retold by Eric Kimmel
Ananse’s Feast retold by Tololwa Mollel
There are more at the library across the river, which wasn’t open today. I’m particularly interested in seeing how the Spiderman Anancy titles may be different from the others I’ve gathered so far. Here’s the coincidence: this is a second set of stories each told in different voices and illustrated in widely different fashions. What a neat coincidence, to have two sets of stories like this in the same week. A great opportunity to do a little literary analysis, first grade style!
In the meantime, though, I realized I’d been humming “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” this whole time. I decided to see if the Disney version of The Three Little Pigs is available online, and of course it is on YouTube.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/Olo923T2HQ4" width="425" height="350"/]
I bookmarked that clip and then started following the YouTube rabbit-trails: the list of related videos in the sidebar. I found several Sesame Street clips, mostly Kermit’s News Flash skits involving The Three Little Pigs in one way or another. JediBoy loves those old News Flash skits, so I’m sure he’ll love watching these too. There was a Muppet version of the story, and a Looney Tunes short called “The Three Little Bops” with great music.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/HTSOjbp0Hs0" width="425" height="350"/]
Hmm. Music! I started searching online and found a free mp3 of “The Three Little Bops” as well as a few other musical versions and a few retellings of the story. In my pile of cds in the cupboard I have Simply Mad About the Mouse, Classic Disney, Heigh-Ho! Mozart, and Laurie Berkner (Buzz Buzz) versions too. There aren’t any links that I can find (yet) with the music from the opera we’ll be seeing, but as I searched I did find a few study guides from other companies that have performed this short opera. I’ve put together a fun little playlist for the week. (Left aside, but only for the moment, are Anansi-related tracks, including the Raffi song. I can try, but I can’t really get to everything.)
As I was bopping along with the pigs, I started to wonder how we can act out the story. After the planetarium (which is still migrating from room to room in our house), I’m not ready for the big-box approach (even one big box with each side decorated differently would work – but alas, we have no space). So I poked through my files to find some story pieces, thinking we could color, cut and paste them. Maybe they’ll be stick puppets, felt board pieces or magnets on the fridge. We can make pig snouts from the cups of an egg carton, and if I can dig out some plain fabric we can paint it to look like bricks, sticks and straw, and use the fabric as backdrops.
The thoughts, as you can tell, were flying through my brain faster than I could act on them, all morning. What I finally decided to do was make a Montessori-esque Three Little Pigs story basket, with three small wooden figures for pigs, a larger one for the wolf, six blocks (two yellow, three brown and four red), as well as a little wooden tray to put them in and a piece of green fleece to be the green grass.
All the bits and pieces came to only a few dollars at the craft store, and the first coat of paint is drying now. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be back to post some pictures of our new play set. [ETA: Here they are!]
It doesn’t stop there, though. We have a really neat, as-yet-unidentified spider weaving a web between our wagon and the house. This prompted JediBoy to beg to study spiders for science this week, as he noticed the web when we left the house to head to the library. We checked out a pile of spider books and one spider identification guide, but it was only as I was carrying my enormous pile of everything to the counter that I started laughing. Anansi. The. Spider.
Sometimes life is so connected, you can’t unravel it. This week, we’ll be studying The Three Little Pigs Meet Anansi the Spider. Share your favorite resources for any or all of our current hot topics, or write us a story knitting everything together. Or just tell me I’m not alone in finding so many interesting, intertwined topics that I can’t possibly stop myself!