Ken Spillman did an animated reading of The Magic Feather to the little ones at Usha Martin School, Kolkata. Notes from his session:
I particularly enjoyed reading this picture book to the children, from lower KG to Grade 2, because it highlights the major theme of my interactions with kids – the magic of books. It was also a pleasure to read because each turning of the page brings transformation of the landscape – the landscape of the imagination.
I read the words slowly and deliberately, with pauses at the end of sentences and pages. ‘Can you see the girl?’ I asked at the end of the first page. ‘Look at her hair!’
When the owl hooted, I hooted too and unfolded my wings. When it dropped a feather, I picked it up carefully from the page and asked the kids to look at it. Then I placed it behind the ear of one of the girls. ‘It looks nice, doesn’t it?’ I asked the kids – and they agreed. By the time we got to the next page-spread, the land of feathers, their eyes were wide with wonder and they were definitely in that land too.
I made a frog sound, then a vanishing sound – whoosh! Then I picked up the lily, and placed it in a boy’s hair. ‘Pretty!’ I said – and of course he laughed. ‘Let’s count the lilies,’ I suggested to the youngest of the groups when we turned the page.
Then I roared – before I even showed the kids the tiger. They liked this surprise, and called out ‘Tiger’ when I opened the book again. I picked up the stone, and placed it in my hair. ‘Oh dear, not enough hair,’ I said, watching the stone drop to the floor. I picked it up again and placed it in the long hair of a girl.
We finger-walked across the land of stones and met a worm. My finger became the worm. ‘Look, maybe it’s a bookworm?’ My finger disappeared into The Magic Feather, peeped out the top. I opened the book with the girl and read the next part in an excited voice, faster. Finding the girl’s friends became a big moment, and could have been the end of the book for some of the youngest. I gestured to indicate that we were the girl’s friends…
But the best was still to come. I paused after each word in the list – kings and queens, animals and gods,palaces and forests, leaping tigers, staring frogs, hooting owls – and also added a few things of the top of my head, including ‘girls and boys like you’.
Finally we would get to ‘and a magic feather’. At that point, I would retrieve the feather from behind my chosen girl’s ear, throw it up in the air, and watch it flutter to the floor.
We would then talk briefly about the magical world of story…