It’s been one of my dreams since I first started working with kids in libraries to throw a Mo Willems party, and although I love the Pigeon, I’ve been working on expanding our offerings for the school-age crowd and so I was excited to put on a Piggie & Gerald party this fall.
I was also filled with trepidation. Programs at my library can get outrageous attendance – we’re talking 200 patrons for a regular storytime, sometimes more than 400 for a particularly special event – and lest those numbers make you think that we are a Large and Fancy library, or that I am a Magic Librarian, rest assured that we are not and I am not. We’re a branch that serves approximately 60,000 people in an unincorporated county area with not much else to do, and while I’m grateful for our big program room, I’m often a children’s staff of one (or one of two). I’ve had what I thought would be a small program for 50 bring in 250 patrons (The Great Rock Painting Disaster of 2019), so I was bracing myself for attracting way more attention than I could handle.
In the weeks leading up to the program, I thought my fears were going to be realized. I saw dozens of kids and caregivers react excitedly to the flyer in-house. I was too scared to put the event on social media, lest I bring an explosion down upon myself. The day of, I braced myself.
How bananas was it?
It was actually… fine? Much to my surprise, we got an entirely manageable crowd of about 150 patrons spread out over the hour (more on that later). So, once I was able to relax and enjoy my own program, I started to evaluate what I saw.
What we did:
Pin the Snout on Piggie
I painted a snout-less Piggie on a big piece of cardboard and then made three pink snouts out of construction paper, which I laminated and then added a loop of painter’s tape to the back. I had a bandana on hand for a blindfold and let kids decide whether they wanted to use it.
We found out pretty quick that painter’s tape doesn’t stick to painted cardboard very well! Piggie’s snout would sometimes fall off before the kiddos could see where they had placed it if they didn’t press hard enough. Alas! This bothered me more than the kiddos, however.
Piggie and Gerald Paper Bag Puppets
The supplies for this were pretty simple: brown paper bags, coloring supplies, scissors, glue sticks, and the Piggie and Gerald templates that come from Mo Willems’ website. These were a huge hit and what most kids liked the best about the program.
Elephant and Piggie activity sheets
There are tons to chose from on Mo Willems’ site. I picked about six different activity sheets, and opted for ones that were the most interactive/creative, giving kids the opportunity to write their own stories, draw their own Elephant and Piggie panels, and more, and skipping over the simpler coloring pages.
There Is a Bird on Your Head Obstacle Course
The object is simple: complete the obstacle course without letting the bird’s nest and eggs (a small paper bowl, covered in brown paper and with a couple of empty easter eggs affixed inside) fall off your head. I made our obstacle course out of painter’s tape and the sitting “dots” that we have but never use for storytime. I made two courses side-by-side, so kids could compete, but they mostly just wanted to go at their own paces – an admirable quality that I want to support!
Piggie, Gerald, and Friends Scavenger Hunt
I have a stuffed Piggie, Gerald, Pigeon, and Duckling, and I put them to work. I attached a letter to each of them and then hid each character in the children’s section of the library (not the program room where we were holding the party) and we handed out slips of paper where kids could record each letter they saw. When they found all four letters they could come back and tell us the secret word and get a Pigeon bookmark as a prize.
We Are in a Photograph!
I’ll be honest: I spent a ton of work-time on this and it brought me joy! Luckily, the families enjoyed it, too. I took one monster piece of cardboard (courtesy of my coworker’s new sofa from IKEA) and painted Gerald, Piggie, and several of their friends and then cut out the spaces for kiddos to stick their heads through and get their pictures taken.
If I do this again, I need to build a better frame to hold it because this thing was wobbly! I spend a lot of time during the program holding it up so that it wouldn’t fall when kiddos leaned on it, which is what I get for trying to repurpose an old, collapsible puppet theater as a brace.
So why wasn’t this bananas?
There are a couple of lessons I’m going to take away from this program and apply to future ones that I think might be wild:
- I had four teen volunteers. Four! That was enough to have one working the puppet station, one at the obstacle course, one at pin the snout on Piggie, and one at the scavenger hunt reward table. These guys were so good, they hardly needed me!
- Timing. I held this program at 2:00 pm on a Saturday, during the school year (not during a break), and this just tends to be a quieter time at my branch. Between sports and other weekend obligations, families tend to be busier in the afternoon than in the morning, when we’ve traditionally held Saturday programs in the past.
- Spacing. The scavenger hunt portion of the program was in children’s section, separate from the rest of the activities, which were in our program room. This meant that families could go out into the kids area when the program room got busy, and then switch places.
Because I’m so spoiled by our high attendance numbers, I ended up feeling a little disappointed by the 150 or so patrons who did attend. Couldn’t I have gotten more? Couldn’t I have done better? Should I have put the event on social media? But that’s more of a me-problem than it is an event-problem: I know that I constantly want to push our programs to be the biggest they can possibly be, without going overboard, and that means that I often go overboard!
Besides, I’ve still got our Piggie and Gerald cut-outs, so they may make another appearance down the road!
And our next bananas program? A Dog Man party, of course! Stay tuned.