Tall Tale Circus

Aug 22, 2013 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Activities

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons debaird

During late August and early September, Wishing Chair Productions will present Tall Tale Circus. Come see Pecos Bill, Calamity Jane, John Henry, and Johnny Appleseed—live and in person in this musical extravaganza for the whole family!

Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 10:30 and 11:30, beginning August 23 through September 21. The running time is 55 minutes. Every show is held in the children’s theater at the Main Library.

Extend the learning fun with your preschooler by grabbing a book and trying one of these activities at home. Each activity is inspired by one of the topics from the show!


  • Cabin life: Read Homeplace by Anne Shelby or Henry Builds a Cabin by D.B. Johnson to learn about the process of building a cabin. Try building your own cabin using popcicle sticks, pretzel sticks, or even q-tips! Which shapes are most stable? Which ones are shaky? Experiment with different materials and sizes.
  • Create a quilt: Learn about the long tradition of quiltmaking in The Elephant Quilt: Stitch by Stitch to California by Susan Lowell, The Quilt Story by Tony Johnston or Papa and the Pioneer Quilt by Jean Van Leeuwen. Make your own quilt squares by drawing or coloring a square of paper. Put together 4, 6, or 8 squares on a poster board to make a quilt.  Just like the characters in the story, tell about the squares of your quilt. Use the quilt to record your family’s story! One fun variation of this activity is to ask every member of the family to create a square.The Elephant Quilt cover
  • Prairie Animals: Oxen and Buffalo!: Read Buffalo Thunder by Patricia Wittmann or Old Crump by Laurie Lawlor.  Then learn about these fascinating animals by visiting the National Geographic site. Compare the two animals using information from the books or this site.  Make a chart or venn diagram of similarities and differences. Which animal would you prefer to meet, a buffalo or ox? Why?
  • Weather Watch: Read Thunderstorm by Arthur Geisert. Observe the hourly changes of weather at your home. Notice any change in clouds, sun, rain, or humidity (does the air feel sticky? dry?). Draw a picture of the weather every hour to create your own book of weather. Talk about how people inside the house respond to weather outside the house.
  • Cow-Girl Power!: Read A Cowboy Named Ernestine by Nicole Rubel and I Want to Be a Cowgirl by Jeanne Willis. A cowhand is an example of an unusual job. Explore other types of unusual jobs at kids.gov. What would you like to do when you grow up?
  • How to be a ‘real’ cowboy: Read Cowboy Slim by Julie Danneberg or Cowboy Camp by Tammi Sauer. These books show that ‘real’ cowboys are true to themselves. Can you think of a time when you didn’t fit in? How did you feel? Cowboy Slim likes to write poems about his life. Write a poem about a time when you didn’t feel included.Cowboy Slim cover
  • I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad: Explore the sounds/rhythm of trains by reading All Aboard!: A True Train Story by Susan Kuklin, or Iron Horses by Verla Kay. Then sing a train-inspired song, such as this one.

Down By the Station

Down by the station early in the morning

See the little choo choo trains all in a row.

See the engine driver pull the little handle.

Choo choo puff puff and off they go.

Melody: Traditional English; words by Barbara Cass-Beggs

Although preschoolers won’t fully grasp the exaggerations found in tall tales, older siblings might like to check out more versions of tall tales at the library. There are LOTS of great choices available.

Will Rogers: Will Rogers: Larger Than Life by Debbie Dadey; Will Rogers: An American Legend by Frank Keating; Will Rogers: Quotable Cowboy by Cathereen L. BennettWill Rogers: Larger than Life cover

Paul Bunyan: Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure by Matthew Luckhurst; The Tall Tale of Paul Bunyan by Martin Powell; Paul Buyan by M. J. York; Paul Bunyan vs. Hals Halson by Teresa Bateman; Paul Bunyan by Bill Balcziak

John Henry: John Henry by Julius Lester; John Henry: An American Legend by Ezra Jack Keats; John Henry by Bill Balcziak; The Legend of John Henry by Terry Small; John Henry and His Mighty Hammer by Patsy Jensen

Pecos Bill: Pecos Bill by M. J. York; Pecos Bill by Eric Blair; Pecos Bill, the Roughest, Toughest, and Best by Patsy Jensen; Pecos Bill by Brian Gleeson; Pecos Bill: A Tall Tale by Steven Kellogg

Calamity Jane: Calamity Jane by Stephen Krensky; Calamity Jane by Larry Dane Brimmer; Calamity Jane: Frontier Original by William R. Sanford; Wild Women of the Wild West by Jonah Winter

Other tales and compilations: Animal Folk Tales of America by Tony Palazzo; Paul Bunyan and Other Tall Tales by Jane Mason; Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolen; Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs


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