For many children, their first experience with puppets is on television. Thanks to PBS, shows like Sesame Street and Mr. Roger's Neighborhood became a friendly gateway to the realm of puppetry. If you are from Austin, like me, it's possible that you met your first puppet right here at the library, where we have been putting on puppet shows for children since 1977 - our 40th anniversary is coming up! I still remember the Goldilocks and the Three Bears puppets that Literature Live! uses to this very day! But puppetry is even older than that - much older!
Puppetry is a medium that spans eons and bridges continents. It can be found in virtually every culture, with a variety that might astound you! Puppetry is thought to date back over 25,000 years - that's a long time! There are glove puppets, and rod puppets, marionettes, and shadow puppets, and even multi-person operated bunraku style puppets. Within each of these categories, the variety is endless, with each puppet maker putting their own spin on the design and construction of their puppets. Building puppets is as much an artform as being a sculptor. You can read more about the history and types of puppets using our online Britannica Kids database.
Here at the Austin Public Library, we primarily use glove and shadow puppets - though you'll sometimes catch a character or two sporting rods - like the Fox and the Rooster in our current production of Chicken Big! But we do like to try new things, and have delved into bunraku in Tiger Woman and Wiley and the Hairy Man. This summer, we'll return to glove and shadow for our production of the ever-popular Tortuga del Mar. We will also be offering upcycled puppet making workshops as part of our summer reading program schedule - coming soon to our Youth Event Calendar!
If you can't wait to learn more about puppets, you can make some at home using the templates and tutorials in our Puppet Lab, or you might be interested in attending one of the many puppet festivals that happen around the country during the summer months. Here are some of our favorite festivals for those looking for a field trip!Mézières, France