There are so many different ways to tell a story. Books and film are probably the most popular these days, but oral storytelling is a tradition as old as time. It requires a different type of engagement for the children because there are not any illustrations to look at, and you must employ your imagination in new ways.
Last week, we shared with the children that a special storyteller would be coming today to tell a story about a rat that he knows; yes, he really knows the rat! With some hints (e.g. his last name is Crown), I eventually told them that he is my father-in-law (or according to them, my grandfather).
Today we welcomed my father-in-law, Steve Crown, into the Tucker Room to tell the story of "Rocks the Rat". My husband, Nick, also came to support the storytelling. Rocks is a character from a long series of stories that he used to tell my husband and siblings when they were young. Rocks was initially played a supporting role in these stories, but quickly became the star. There are stories of Rocks running the London marathon, meeting his girlfriend (Rhonda) at the Yale golf course, drinking soda at a pizza parlor, and more. Today we heard about Rocks and his love for soccer, watching tv while the humans sleep, sneaking into Nick's backpack to go to school, and how Rocks learned to speak English.
The rat’s name is Rocks. We live out in Seattle. Rocks lived near our house. I didn’t know anything about rats until I met Rocks. Rocks was really good at sneaking into little holes, little crevices, little cracks and things. He managed to get into our house. I didn’t see him, but he was in the corner watching me watch tv. He saw the remote control, and he taught himself how to use the remote control. When we were all asleep; I’d already put him to bed. Rocks was downstairs in the tv room watching television. You know what he watched? Soccer! Rocks watched soccer, and he’d never seen that before. He decided that he was going to teach his friends, the other rats, how to play soccer. Once he taught them how to kick something around, he decided that he needed something to kick around. He came to get our soccer ball, but it turns out that Rocks is only about this tall [gestures], and the soccer ball is that tall. Rocks is clever. One of the things he decided was that they couldn’t play with real soccer balls, they needed rat sized balls. There weren’t any balls quite right for them. Maybe you know that rats like to eat anything, but Rocks liked to eat chocolate. - Steve
“Why didn’t they just kick an acorn around?” - Reed, 5.1 years
“They also eat through wood and bricks.” - Elle, 5.3 years
“And trash.” - Reed
Rocks liked pepperoni pizza. That was one of his favorites. - Steve
These are the rocks they ended up using. [passes them around] If you look, they aren’t perfectly round. - Steve
“I know what they are! They’re m&ms!” - Lochie, 5.6 years
They really are, but he didn’t know that. He couldn’t read. When he found some of those, he thought they were rat sized soccer balls. They were really hard to kick.
“Is this a true story?” - Reed
It’s a story I know about Rocks. Rocks told me it happened. I didn’t actually see it, so I have to believe Rocks. - Steve
In soccer you can’t use your arms, and that’s really hard to do. He doesn’t have arms, just four legs. They decided to use all four legs. They didn’t have nets, so they used chalk to to draw it. They had to kick the m&ms, because they are really m&ms, from one side to the other. They developed a tournament, and Rocks always wanted to win; sometimes he would even cheat. He made soccer shorts for his team. He had a secret plan that when his team was down two goals to nothing, and only two minutes to go…he called his team back to the goal. When he said, “now”, all of the little rats on his team pulled m&ms out of their pockets and put them on the ground to kick all of the balls into the goal. The only rules had been not using hands, but only heads and feet. Rocks reminded them that there wasn’t a rule about not having extra balls. So, Rocks crowned himself king of the soccer tournament. - Steve
“The king of soccer?” - Reed
“But how did Rocks talk? ‘Cause it talks in rat language.” - Reed, 5.1 years
As it turns out, he’s a really smart rat. - Steve
“Did he speak sign language?” - Elle, 5.3 years
He spoke English. He learned English. - Steve
“How did he learn English?” - Lochie, 5.6 years
I”m not sure, but I think it was from watching tv because he used to sneak in every night and watch so much tv. - Steve
“But how did he reach the doorknob?” - Reed, 5.1 years
He snuck in through a hole. There was a hole in the garage; a crack between the garage and house. He snuck in that way, and didn’t have to use a door knob. - Steve
“He can reach the door knob because rats can jump this high.” - Nora, 5.6 years
Rats can jump high, swim, and hold his breath under water. Rats are really amazing. - Steve
Do you know how else Rocks learned English? He would get in my backpack and come to school with me. When I would open my lunch box to eat, it would be gone because Rocks was in there and he ate all of my lunch while we were learning English. He would just snack on my lunch and learn English. - Nick
See, I didn’t know how he learned English. I thought it was tv, but it was because he was going to school. Rocks, like most rats, likes to sneak into things. I used to travel all over Europe, and Rocks would sneak onto the airplanes with me. I’d always have a bag packed, and I’d check to make sure there was no rat in my bag when I got on, but when I opened my bag, Rocks would stick his head out and say, “Hey! Where we going this time?” - Steve
They were eager to ask questions and share what they know about rats!
“We went to a library, and we already funded out that they can jump high, and really good climbers, and could swim.” - Lochie, 5.6 years
“Maybe they can climb the stairs.” - Reed, 5.1 years
“We also didn’t figure out if rats like rainbows.” - Nora, 5.6 years
“Do you think rats can swing on a trapeze?” - Sylvie, 5.3 years
I bet they can because they can grip on things very well. - Steve
“On the playground we find rat slobber.” - Nora, 5.6 years
“That’s rat spit.” - Janie, 5.2 years
You guys know a lot about rats. - Steve
Where is Rocks? - Multiple children
I don’t know. I guess he’s in Seattle because I didn’t see him in my pack when I opened it yesterday. I think he must be in Seattle. I can’t be sure. Maybe he’s at my hotel. - Steve
“Or maybe in your backpack again!” - Sylvie, 5.3 years
“What if he sneaked today with you to school?” - Reed, 5.1 years
He might be in my pocket. Rocks might have come with us, but jumped off to find the local rats. He likes to make friends with rats. - Steve
Could he be with our rats? - Elyse
“We have lots of rats in the playground.” - Lochie, 5.6 years
“How big were they?” - Giacomo, 5.3 years
He was about this big. Rocks wasn’t too big, but rats can get really big. - Steve
“Did he get as huge as a house?” - Sylvie, 5.3 years
No. Not that big.
“How long ago was this story?” - CC, 5.5 years
The soccer story was probably 20 years ago.
We've been epxloring different ways to illustrate stories - drawing, watercolors, pencil, collage, colored pencil (layered), ink, etc. After our storyteller(s) left, we asked the children to illustrate "Rocks".
"This is Rocks. He's sitting on his throne because he is the king of soccer, and there's a rainbow above him. These are pizza in outer space because he threw them up in the air. These are the rats playing soccer [right hand side]. [pizza at the bottom] They're real pizza, and then he eated them." - Reed, 5.1 years
"He's laying down watching the stars with his soccer balls made of M&Ms." - Audrey, 5.1 years
Other work from today