Aarrrggghh, my pretties! It is I, Captain Book……
Every Friday morning 75 or so Kindergarten through 2nd graders come together in Durham Elementary’s cafetorium for Morning Program, a long standing tradition blending song, instruction and camaraderie to get the day off to an auspicious start and end the week with a bang. And once a month or so, the munchkins are visited by Captain Book, a feisty pirate with an indeterminate and often changing accent who swaggers onto the scene to help convince the kids how cool reading is.
Before my retirement I had visited Morning Program as another book happy character, Libraria, who sometimes brought along her husband, Lothar the Viking. The kids were always amazed that Mrs. S, who taught reading in the school, had a twin sister who came to visit now and then and who also loved to read. And, amazingly, Lothar also resembled Mrs. S’s husband, who was a school volunteer. What an incredible coincidence.
When I retired last June, Libraria retired with me, but some parts of me will never retire (or be allowed to) and so I had to come up with a brand new persona. The place to start was the local costume emporium, which had served us well when coming up with our Lothar and Libraria personae. I should say served me well; when pitching the schtik to my husband, he immediately warmed to the idea of clowning for kids in a Viking get-up, complete with the horned helmet. When we reunited at the cash register with our respective costume choices, he was a little miffed that I had chosen a hippie getup rather than the lady Viking he had envisioned as Lothar’s better other half. I think it offended his sense of order. But the hippie outfit called to me, happy reminiscences of certain aspects of my youth.
Lothar chose to stay retired, so I headed for the pirate section alone. Captain Book wasn’t much of a stretch from Captain Hook, and I had always liked pirates, especially since Johnny Depp began playing one in the movies. Plus I’d get to wear a cool hat and have a parrot on my shoulder. What could be more perfect?
The only possible snag was the sword. Weapons of any kind are frowned upon in schools these days, even fake pirate swords. But Captain Book would be incomplete without a sword, so I taped a book to its blade and a bunch of flowers to its tip, and Captain Book’s nonviolent sword was born. (which the kids dubbed Swook, to rhyme with book, the Swooord, to rhyme with gored)
The only acceptable way to bring a weapon to school – with flowers and a book about a friendly fruit bat
Brandishing his benign flowered rapier, Captain Book prances into the room after his introduction by the teacher leading the program. The kids squeal and giggle, and not a few of the 2nd graders, smug at being the senior members of this group, say “Hi, Mrs. S.” I respond by saying that yes, that elderly teacher they had last year is in fact, my cousin. They pretend to buy it.
Captain Book always arrives with a book to read and a song to sing with the teachers and the kids, written by Captain Book to a well known tune. What follows is sung to the tune of “On Top of Spaghetti” if you’re an elementary school person and “On Top of Old Smoky” if you’re not.
On Top of My Dresser
The day it was rainy,
My Wii it was broke.
And I couldn’t watch TV.
Can’t Mom take a joke?
On top of my dresser,
I saw a big book,
It looked kinda funny,
So I took a look.
I picked up that old book
And sat down on my bed.
I might as well read some,
It was a long day ahead.
I saw pictures of pirates,
Beasts of every kind,
And the words in the stories
Turned on lights in my mind.
The time passed so quickly.
I had such a great day!
Chased the grumpies away.
So next time you’re gloomy.
Or think you are bored.
Just ditch that ol’ TV,
There are books to explore!
Each visit requires a new song and a new book, followed by a question and answer period loosely (very loosely) based on the book or the song. Correct (also loosely interpreted) answers are rewarded by a book printed from an educational reading website.
CB: So, what can you do when you’re bored besides watch TV? (This in an accent that starts out to be French and then dissolves into a mishmash of Southern U.S. and random odd pronunciations)
Kindergartner: Watch TV!
CB: No, no TV. What else?
Kindergartner: Ride my dirt bike!
CB: A grand outdoor activity, but not what I had in mind.
1st Grader: Play video games!
CB: How about something without a screen?
CB: Help – everyone?
CB and Teachers: Yesssss!
The kindergartner gets the book, and so on.
More questions and answers in a similar vein ensue, and then Captain Book takes his leave as the kids wave enthusiastically, and he promises to come back soon.
Captain Book’s last visit of the school year, and perhaps forever due to the school district’s restructuring of the elementary schools, took place today. In addition to the usual song, book promoting banter and silliness the kids had one last test. Something was amiss with Captain Book’s parrot. Still perched firmly and stolidly on Captain Book’s shoulder, the poor thing was missing most of the feathers on its body. What had happened? Captain Book listened intently to all the kids’ creative and on occasion bloodthirsty explanations for the bird’s defeathering, but all he would say was that it had something to do with the ship’s cat, Victoria.
Yee-hah! Lookit what I found in the ship’s closet, I mean hold.
A fitting end for a critter and a character with uncertain futures.