This month’s story time is unique because we don’t have just one guest – we have one guest and an orangutan!
We are thrilled to welcome Liam Chleborad and his puppet Oswald to momaha’s Evening Children’s Story Time this Friday at The Bookworm Bookstore at Countryside Village, near 87th and Pacific Streets.
And the theme this month is “The Jungle”! From orangutans to lions, we’ll be reading books, making a craft and talking about the animals of the jungle.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Liam about his puppeteering background and what led him to create Oswald. His answers give us a glimpse into why this orangutan has become so special not only to him, but to many others; especially those in need of a smile. Liam is a teacher at RM Marrs Magnet Center where he teaches finance to grades 5-8 He’s been working with puppets since the beginning of 2013, when we made Oswald.
Here’s what he had to say:
Q. Where does your interest in puppeteering come from? Where did your love of it originate?
A. My interest in puppeteering stems largely from Jim Henson productions like The Labyrinth and The Muppets. I have been fond of puppets and animatronix used in movies and television since I was a kid. I even “boycotted” computer animated movies for a while when they started. CGI movies aren’t going anywhere and have improved immensely, but I get really excited when I see modern projects that use puppets. The new Muppet movie was great!
Q. What made you want to use puppeteering to help kids?
A. Making Oswald was a personal goal. I didn’t have any intentions when I made him. The school I work at has video announcements during home room and I thought it would be funny if Oswald did the announcements. Most of the kids in the school didn’t know who was behind the puppet until the last week of the year. I showed a boy in my class who has autism and the results were really incredible. So I took Oswald to the resource room for the kids with more moderate to profound disabilities and the results were just as encouraging. I underwent treatment for brain cancer during the summer of 2008. It was the catalyst for my teaching career and my desire to provide positive encouraging experiences for young people of all ages. I would like to work with sick and disabled children as well as kids who just need a laugh or a story. I also think reading and writing are incredibly important.
Q. How did you come up with Oswald? Is he based on anyone or anything you know?
A. The idea for the type and age of the puppet came about after several ideas I played around with in my head. Oswald is really an extension of my personality. I can be goofy and Oswald seems to convince others that it’s okay to have fun and be silly. Oswald likes to sing and dance and ask questions. He is very curious and likes to encourage kids to ask questions and have confidence.
Q. What experience/story from puppeteering is the most special to you? Is there a child you affected that you have never forgotten?
A. The first time I realized I could use Oswald with kids with special needs, etc. was when I showed him to my student with autism. It was really cool. It was like I wasn’t even there. The student was laughing and asking Oswald questions and telling him about another cartoon character named Oswald. There wasn’t much in my class that the student “connected” with, but he and the other students with needs always ask about Oswald and tell me when they’ve seen him on “T.V.”
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Join us 7 p.m. Friday at The Bookworm Bookstore to hear Liam and Oswald read. Kiddos are encouraged to come in their pajamas and stay for milk and cookies after the reading.
Danielle Herzog is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom to two children.
Read her every Wednesday on momaha.
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