CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 39. . . .June 11, 2010
Munsch at Play: Eight Stage Adaptations for Young Performers.
Irene N. Watts, adapter. Original stories by Robert Munsch.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2010.
80 pp., hardcover, $24.95.
Munsch, Robert N., 1945- -Adaptations.
Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9.
Review by Leanne Ryrie.
Narrator: Jason's father was too heavy to pick up. So Jason ran home very fast, got his sled, and pulled him back home.
Sound Effects: BUMP, BUMP, BUMP, BUMP.
Narrator: Jason pulled him into the bathroom.
Sound Effects: SCRITCH, SCRITCH, SCRITCH, SCRITCH (From 50 Below Zero.)
Irene Watts has adapted a number of popular Robert Munsch stories into stage plays for young children. The eight stories included in this compilation are: Angela's Airplane, Stephanie's Ponytail, Mortimer, 50 Below Zero, Mud Puddle, Millicent and the Wind, Murmel, Murmel, Murmel, and The Paper Bag Princess. The changes made to the original texts for the play versions are minimal, and the integrity of the original stories remains intact.
Each of the plays begins with a cast list, staging directions, set design and a list of props and costumes. The plays require different sizes of casts ranging from four to twenty as some of the pieces include crowds of people. The running time of each piece is approximately ten minutes.
The art included in the text is largely that of Michael Martchenko. Sami Suomalainen and Suzanne Duranceau also contribute. The art is the same art that appears in Munsch's original texts. It is colourful, and the expressions on the faces of the characters add to the humour included in the stories. Each play begins with a picture taken from the associated original text, and then pictures of the characters are scattered in the text of each play.
The students in my class thoroughly enjoyed reading the adaptations, and they had a great deal of fun working together to present the pieces. The humour that is evident in many of Munsch's stories translates well to these plays. In many of the plays, an entire character is devoted to the sound effects that hold a prominent role in the original texts. The children were already familiar with the stories that were being staged, and so they were able to work in small groups with minimal assistance to practice their performances.
In some sections, the staging of the plays was quite complex. For example, the Mud Puddle set design called for "A rolling board decorated to look like the front of a house, a set of steps, and a cutout of an apple tree." Later in the directions for set design, it also lists "a painted box or cutout to represent the doghouse" and "a cutout piece of fence." The strength of Munsch's stories lies largely with the characters he creates, and I felt that the pieces could have effectively been presented in a Reader's Theatre format. I think that children could more easily manage the staging of the stories if they were presented in this type of a format as each piece only spans approximately ten minutes. Because some students in my class felt daunted when they first read the set design, we made a number of changes in order to simplify the staging for some of the pieces.
Irene Watts provides children with another way to enjoy Robert Munsch's stories. This set of eight stage adaptations allows fans of the original text to take on starring roles in their favourite stories. The text would be a welcome addition to any classroom or home library.
Leanne Ryrie teaches second grade and is currently a graduate student in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.
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