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Puppet Showplace Theater

On Saturday my family and I went to a preview performance of a work-in-progress show at the Puppet Showplace Theater in Brookline. The show was put on by Wee the People cofounder Tanya Nixon-Silberg and based on the book My Night in the Planetarium by Innosanto Nagara (author/illustrator of A Is for Activist and the recently published M Is for Movement, among others).

The central set piece was a large version of the book, with pages that opened out and up and in other directions the very creatively minded puppetry designer, Sarah Nolen, and Tanya saw fit. It was so fascinating to be able to see this project unfolding right before our eyes! Tanya performed the scenes she had already prepared and talked a bit about what was still to come; the part we saw helped contextualize the history of Dutch colonialism and later oppressive governance in Indonesia (where the author was born) in a child-accessible way (see picture).

Having Inno there in the audience was an added treat, as we could side-eye watch his reactions to being portrayed in hand-puppet form. After the puppet play, the author read from M Is for Movement, an illustrated middle-grade, semi-autobiographical story; he chose a vividly memorable selection about a tapeworm. "Was that true?" asked an audience member during the Q/A. "Do you really want to know?" he said. Stressing that there is fun in the not knowing, he gave them a chance to reconsider; but since he believes in "always answering children's questions honestly": Yes. It was true. 

Videography and post-performance interviews were done by the Loop Lab. The complete show opens in February of 2020 and should be well worth checking out, along with other Puppet Showplace Theater productions. And it's right around the corner from the Children's Book Shop and not far from Brookline Booksmith -- win-win for children's lit-related small/independent businesses and arts organizations!

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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