Puppets Help Give a Voice to the Public Library’s Summer Reading Program

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Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Meghan Casey went on an adventure on Thursday morning aboard the USS Self Discovery cruise ship, accompanied by Aidan, a 4-year-old dinosaur.

Unfortunately, the ship, guarded by a dog named Capt. Shooster, washed up on some rocks and Meghan and Aidan were marooned on an island where they met up with other puppet friends who had previously been stranded.

All went well after Lenny, a shark wearing a float on its tail, swam into the ocean to alert a passing ship so everyone could be rescued.

About 60 young children and their mothers also gathered at the Lomas Tramway Library as part of the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Public Library System’s summer reading program.

The program, which runs until the end of July, gives children the chance to win prizes for reading over the summer. Metropolitan area libraries also offer live entertainment and music, movies, crafts, science activities and other events – all of which are sponsored by the Friends of the Public Library.

This year’s theme is ‘Oceans of Discovery’, and Casey’s 45-minute island adventure fit right in as she introduced the audience to her menagerie, which also included Phil the hamster, Crush the turtle, who wears sometimes a lion’s mane as a “disguise,” an unnamed banana-stealing monkey, and a kangaroo named Cassie, whose pouch contains a Rubik’s Cube and a large wooden clothespin she can clip to her nose “to that I no longer feel”.

The children expressed their approval throughout the program with smiles and laughter, while the parents appreciated the big picture.

“I love it. I think it’s great to have a free, safe and fun educational activity to do, and my kids can’t wait to come so they can get new books,” said Anna Wallin, who was there. with kids Kyrie, 7, and Cash, 4. “All the shows we’ve been to have been really good.”

Tina Se, along with her children, Vincent, 5, and Adora, 3, said, “I think it’s awesome. It’s a lot of fun and really rewarding, and my kids love it. We are having a lot of fun.”

Kristy Palombo had her hands full with children Imogen, 4, Stevic, 2, and baby Rylynn, 6 weeks.

“We loved the show and the (older) kids were laughing all the time. I didn’t have to entertain them at all,” she said.

“We come almost every week and we also organize the story time for the toddlers and the reading program. Imogen learned her sounds and it was very motivating for her and Stevic. So it’s been really good for us as a family to do something educational, but also fun.

And that’s largely the intent behind the summer reading program, said branch children’s librarian Cheryl Mugleston.

“We use a theme that is part of a national curriculum, with libraries across the country using the same theme. But the idea, of course, is to encourage kids to keep reading all summer long and to visit the library,” she said.

With programs for young children, tweens, teens and adults, libraries are busy places during the summer, Mugleston said.

Ventriloquist Casey is also busy this summer, performing at around 280 shows between late May and mid-August.

The 27-year-old Denver native is a veteran of her craft, having started at age 5. His father, an insurance agent, was a part-time ventriloquist who used puppets when he read to him as a child.

“Then one day I saw his lips move and I was like, ‘Hey, you make them talk.’ He denied it, but I said, ‘Yeah, you are, and I want to learn how to do it,'” Casey said.

She started practicing, watching videos, reading books and taking an online course on ventriloquism. At the age of 6, Casey was allowed to accompany her father to a national ventriloquist convention in Cincinnati, where she performed for the first time before an audience of 600 people.

Today, she puts on about 1,000 shows a year through her business, Rocky Mountain Puppets, has nearly 3 million people on TikTok, and makes a decent living. “I paid for my college education doing this,” she said. She earned a degree in psychology from Colorado State University.

“My goal is to one day have a television show, using puppets to teach kids about health, safety, fitness and nutrition,” Casey said.

And while conjuring up different voices and speaking through puppets is second nature to her, not everyone understands.

Her current boyfriend understands, but she recalls when they were dating, “it was always a mixed reaction,” she said. “It was either, ‘Oh, that’s cool,’ or ‘wow, that’s weird.'”

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