Over the last few months, War Horse, the incredible stage production from the National Theatre based on the book by Micheal Morpurgo has been playing here in Sydney at the Lyric Theatre. I was fortunate to see the Sydney production 3 times and fell in love with the incredible puppets made by the Handspring Puppet Company in South Africa. I was deeply moved by the notion that very few of the animals used in war especially the horses did not return from the war and many were left behind. Out of more than 136, 000 Australian Horses sent to the first world war, only one horse returned- Sandy the horse of Major General Bridges who died in Gallipoli and requested that his horse be returned to Australia.
Image of a War Horse stuck in the mud of World War 1.
Images from the play of War Horse.
Using the play of War Horse as a foundation, and the education pack from the learning program for the play as well as my Goose puppet from the National Theatre of Great Britain, I created the display for term 2. The display focused on information about the Australian Light Horse Regiment as well as how the original story and play were developed. This way the display linked into the History, English, Creative Arts and Design and Technology curricula. I also used the vision from the Handspring TED talk about War Horse as well as the vision from the Making War Horse documentary and the Michael Parkinson Masterclass program that featured Micheal Morpurgo on the Library TV screen. This way students could see and hear elements of the play and appreciate the artistry of the beautiful puppets.
General view of the display wall at the front of the library including the display cabinet.
Photograph of the vinyl lettering to teach students about the 136000 horses sent to World War 1 and only 1 returned.
Photograph of Topthorn from War Horse.
Image of the puppet of Joey from War Horse including the plans of how the horses are constructed.
Contents of the display cabinet containing the Goose Puppet, Handspring puppet book and the program from the play
Side view of the display cabinet with information about the writing of War Horse as a story.
My journey towards our book week display started with the chance discovery in mid-2011 of a Sydney 2000 Torch Relay banner and an official flag from the Olympic and Paralympic games in the Library storeroom among a collection of flags used for my school’s annual multicultural day. The torch relay banner originally hung from a light pole along the route of the torch relay.
While Sydney 2000 only feels a few years ago to us and we remember the excitement of the best Olympic Games ever, the year 7 students I am currently teaching were born in 2000 and they have limited knowledge about the games of the new millennium.
When the 2012 book week theme Champions Read was announced at the end of 2011, I realised that I could use the flags and banner I had found and if I could assemble a number of related souvenirs by contacting people I knew who had volunteered at past Olympics and asking if they would be willing to contribute to the display. I was able to borrow 3 volunteer uniforms (one from 2000 and two uniforms from Athens 2004) as well as mascots from the Athens Paralympic games. The uniforms became the central part of my display and I planned to display the uniforms on mannequins in front of the torch relay banner in a similar style to how fashion outlets position their mannequins in front of a banner of the brand.
As a result of reaching out to people connected to the Paralympic community, I was introduced to a member of my school’s local community who was willing to loan to a school a selection from his vast collection of Olympic and Paralympic memorabilia including 3 Olympic and Paralympic torches. Even being able to ask to display 3 real torches in the school library was an opportunity not to be missed! I also made drawings of what I thought the display could look like to show the community member when I was negotiating the loan of the torches. He was even able to make suggestions of other objects he was willing to loan the school for the display based on those drawings.
Once term 1 of 2012 was underway, it was time to start constructing the mannequins for the volunteer uniforms. Due to issues of storage space and budget, I decided not to purchase shop mannequins but to construct them out of PVC pipe and newspaper, using a technique I use to construct puppets. The PVC pipes acts as the skeleton of the mannequins and the pieces are joined using plumbing fittings and wood screws. I used scrunched balls of newspaper to simulate muscles with layers of newspaper on top acting as the skin. Once we no longer need the mannequins they can be easily broken down and recycled but having the rigid skeleton helps them endure through our term-long book week display. I also encouraged students to help me construct the mannequins at recess and lunchtimes, teaching them an alternative method of creating paper mache sculptures that did not involve balloons and tiny pieces of newspaper using a technique that I had learned from www.gourmetpapermache.com.
The third part of the whole display is the London 2012 pictograms and the book week race track. I adapted the Olympic and Paralympic pictograms from www.london2012.com and cut each icon out of adhesive vinyl and applied them to the windows of the library. I also adapted the main Olympic and Paralympic logo but I added to it the words book week and Champions Read using the font of London 2012. I also used the London 2012 font to make race bibs for the nominated books in the race to be named as book of the year and arranged the books on an orange tablecloth to make a race track.
Now that the display is complete, the most common question I am being asked by students is “those are models/ replicas aren’t they?” when they are looking at the torches or helping me take them in and out of the display cabinet at the beginning and end of each day for safekeeping. The students are genuinely astonished when I tell them that they are real and the sense of pride and excitement that I can see in their face when they are holding the torch seems to carry with them the whole day. The display is encouraging students to ask probing questions about the Olympics and Paralympics and to make connections between the news and images of London 2012 with the objects in the Library.
Well November has arrived and this means one thing- Movember! Movember raises funds for research into prostate cancer and men’s depression- learn more at www.au.movember.com I haven’t really done much for Movember in the past except make donations to the Movember participants. This year is different because I went to my favourite shop for things to decorate the library- Typo!
The shop was selling a large wooden moustache with hooks, big canvas prints called Moustache’s of the World, as well as calendars, sticky notes, pens etc. I bought the big stuff and got decorating.
The big wooden moustache
The first thing I did was take all the extra key hooks off the wooden moustache and turned the hooks around so we can hang the library open/ closed sign off the big moustache.
The next item was setting up the Moustaches of the World Canvas print in a place where everyone could read the levels of difficulty and growing time needed for different styles of Mo’s.
The third item we created was bookmarks based on the Moustaches of the world 2012 Calendar. These have been extremely popular with students pulling the bookmarks off the bookmark tree or rifling through the box on the circulation desk to collect all the designs.
The ULTIMATE item I have made for Movember are the instant Mo’s. I use my robotic cutter to cut the shapes from the Moustache’s of the world print. (I drew them into my computer using Adobe Illustrator). I originally made the Mo’s to decorate the windows but students spotted them in the box and wanted them! Not wanting to disappoint, I asked the students for a small donation to Movember of 20cents and the Mo’s have been extremely popular especially with the girls! I now use the remaining paper from the cutting out to decorate the windows- Check out these pics
The instant mo's for those unable or unwilling to grow a mo in MovemberThe range of instant mo's available on display as part of the circulation desk.
Using the left over paper from the instant mo's to decorate the windows. This has given me an idea for the christmas display. Any guesses?
With Halloween just around the corner I have decided to decorate the library to celebrate not halloween but the genre of “Horror” since here in Australia we don’t celebrate Halloween to the extent that American’s do. All the variety stores here in Australia are full of halloween props at very reasonable prices. Some of the props in the shops are fantastic and some are really tacky. I decided to stick to a more pirate/ skeleton/ graveyard/ cobweb theme rather than witches and pumpkins.
The "Horror" table of books...
I even made up a table of all the horror books in the library collection. I was halfway through arranging the books on the table and students started picking the books up and borrowing them! Students even wanted to borrow the books in the window display (I just replaced them with even more content).
The bookmark tree at the loans desk- just pull a bookmark off the tree...
The part that has students the most excited are the 12 bookmarks I made. As soon as I decorated our bookmark tree (see the picture) and put the spare bookmarks in the only pumpkin I bought- bookmarks were flying out the door. Some students even wanted 1 of every bookmark design I had made.
I am already planning the decorations for next year- I am thinking along the lines of more pirates and I saw some fantastic polystyrene tombstones in the shops that would make some great window decorations.
The bookmark pumpkin- yes the eyes light up!
Our skeleton welcoming our visitors to the circulation desk...
Of course- it wouldn’t be a post by me if it didn’t relate to puppetry in some way so enjoy these offerrings from the Muppets!
The theme for this year’s book week is One World, Many Stories. With such an open theme, I found it very challenging to come up with a display idea for the Library I work in.
The windows at the front of the library before their transformation
When I recently recieved a new puppet from Vietnam for my collection of puppets- I was inspired! Before books, puppets were used to tell stories. What if I used my collection of puppets from around the world as my display. I could also use the windows at the front of the library similar to department store windows and put the puppets in them.
To make the curtains fit the window, I measured the windows and transferred those measurements to MS Publisher 2007. I then resized the curtains to fit, printed it out on multiple sheets of A3 paper, glued the pages together and cut out the opening to see the puppets. I then used sticky tape to ‘hang’ the curtains in the window.
This is my puppet Lachlan Macquarie representing Muppets
Punch and Judy Puppets holding book week books
The backgrounds behind the puppets are 3 panel folding display boards with black fabric draped over the top. All of the puppets except my Vietnamese Water Puppets are holding scaled copies of book week nominated titles. I could not attach copies of the book week books to the puppet’s hands without damaging the paintwork on the puppet.
Wayang Kulit Shadow Puppets Holding more bookweek titles.
Vietnamese Water Puppets
This has been a wonderful opportunity to blend my passion for puppets with my role as the Teacher Librarian as well as creating a talking point around the school. Many teachers have suggested that I design animated windows for Christmas just like some of the major department stores here in Australia… we’ll see when Christmas comes around.
Book week will be held this year from August 20 to 26th.
The 2011 IWD morning tea with colour coordinated decorations
8th of March is International Women’s Day. Here in the library, we make a week of it. In 2011 IWD was on a Tuesday so we started decorating on the previous Friday by blowing up balloons and plaiting streamers.
The colours of International Women’s Day are Green White and Violet/ Purple. If you did not know why these colours represent IWD the reason is simple- Green represents Give, White represents Women and Violet/ Purple represents Vote- Give Women the Vote. The three colours were used by Women protesting for suffrage- the Suffragettes.
Marking the day with a Balloon tree and signage
As the Librarian, it was delegated to me to organise the IWD staff morning tea- we held it on the Friday of the week when we normally have staff morning tea.
The decorations are balloons, crepe ribbon, plastic tablecloths and the music included Sister Sufferagette from Mary Poppins.
Many of the students in my school celebrate Lunar New Year or Tet. This year is the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese Lunar calendar. I found the decorations in my local variety store for just a few dollars each including the Lanterns which came in packs of 2 for $5.
Lunar New Year Lanterns
I bought the gorgeous red satin fabric at a local fabric store for $5 per metre. The best thing about the satin is that it allows us to make a quick transition from Lunar New Year to Library Lovers Day on February 14.