DECATUR – READiculous and the Elephant and Piggie books go together, as Forrest Gump might say, like peas and carrots.
Mo Willems has written 25 Elephant and Piggie books, and Alissa Henkel and Susan Bishop, who created READiculous, have performed them all. At Holy Family School on Tuesday, as the duo performed a new, sixth version of READiculous for the first time this school year, they also performed the last Elephant and Piggie book, “The Thank You.”
“It's emotional for us,” Bishop said. “But he is still publishing other books.”
“We're hoping Ballet Cat will be good for us (as a replacement),” Henkel added. “(Two-character stories) make it easy.”
One reason they like Elephant and Piggie is that the stories, aimed at very young children, are almost always contained to those two characters, making it simpler for the two women to perform the story than if there were several. Ballet Cat and her friend Sparkle the Pony, mentioned by Henkel, are the stars of books by Bob Shea, and “Ballet Cat and the Totally Secret Secret” is featured in their current show.
“We've thrown in an extra character, but it makes it more difficult to navigate,” Bishop said.
The women of READiculous act out books in shows throughout the area, at the Decatur Public Library where both are employed, at schools and day care centers, to encourage children to read.
They perform while holding copies of the books they're bringing to life, even though in many cases they have them memorized, so the children will associate the story with the book and want to get their hands on those books themselves.
When they perform at the library, there is always a display of the books they've used in the show in the hopes that kids will want to check them out, and when kids see a show at their school, they can visit the children's department at the library and identify their school and get a free book bag.
READiculous, so named because they “love to read a ridiculous number of books,” as they say, traditionally begins the year with a performance at Holy Family, thanks to librarian Sandy Murray.
“It's such a wonderful introduction here, and it connects school to the library,” said Holy Family Principal Debbie Alexander.
Teachers spent the show scribbling notes and plan to try to create a readers theater themselves with students, Alexander said, which will be a good way to help kids really dig deep into books.
Murray likes having the show at the beginning of the school year because it emphasizes the importance of reading, right off the bat.
“It lights a fire underneath them,” Murray said. “I looked at (the women's) list of what (books) they were going to do today and the kids come in here and they want this book or that book.”
READiculous is accepting bookings for their free show now, and can be reached at (217) 424-2900, ext. 5.