With all the elements of a fairy tale (an enchanted wood, a trapped heroine, a terrifying giant, a sprinkling of magic, kindness from animals and a love story) Pushka is a story to capture the imagination. There’s just the right amount of adrenalin and fear (Will the giant get his way? Will Lulu, the giant’s harp-playing ballerina of a puppet be able to escape?), made bearable by the beauty and wonder of the setting and a joke or two to relieve the tension (Pushka is, after all, a circus clown).
The illustrations have a dream-like quality about them with lots of soft-focus, pastel tones. The story is great fun to read aloud, with opportunities to make silly noises, to sing, and to growl. The storytelling itself has quite a cinematic feel; the events unfold in the present tense, and the pacing of the story times points of tension with page turns to perfection.
In fact, it turns out that Stephen Mackey has created an animation of Pushka which you can watch here. It isn’t identical to the book (and I don’t know which was created first), but both formats share a lot of elegance, charm and magic.
Hopefully the animation will inspire you to seek out the book. It’s an enchanting fairy story told with pace, simplicity and grace.
So here’s how M and J turned Pushka into their play. Of course there were billboards advertising the show:
Tickets and programmes were printed to sell:
We had to create a water squirting flower for Pushka to use to try to dampen the fire. We used this tutorial as our guide:
Here’s our finished flower (it worked amazingly well!):
The stage was set with trees made from huge cardboard rolls (Thanks Grandpa!) with paper cone branches taped on. Plenty of sparkly lights and glittery snowflakes (instead of the stars in the book) completed the scene with just the right hint of wintery-ness.
We used a brio train to represent the circus caravan:
Casting was made a little more complicated by the fact that both girls wanted to be Lulu. This was solved by having an intermission half way through the play when they swapped roles and costumes.
I played the mean old giant, and we took the curtain call all together.
We prepared a soundtrack for our play:
Other activities which would be fun to try alongside reading Pushka include:
Did you or your kids put on a show over Christmas? Did you go to see a show as a family?
Oh, and if you’re a (fairly) regular reader of the blog and haven’t left a comment on yesterday’s post, please head on over there and do so!
Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review, however, remains my own and honest opinion.