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Six Kids and a Stuffed Cat: 09/11/16

Six Kids and a Stuffed Cat by Gary Paulsen

Six Kids and a Stuffed Cat by Gary Paulsen is a short, strange, and memorable children's book. There are two versions of it. One is a straight up chapter book of about fifty pages. The second is the same tale but written out as a play, perfect for a school performance.

As a piece of prose, Six Kids and a Stuffed Cat wouldn't be very memorable. The title says it all — almost all. It's a situation comedy, a coming together of six boys in a bathroom during a storm watch. The different chapters (or scenes) are separated by loud speaker announcements on the rain in the next county over.

The protagonist of the story lets us know at the first announcement that the weather never amounts to anything but they are always told to seek shelter. At the start of this book, the announcement came just minutes before the final bell of the day, meaning that most children have gone home but those whose teachers were sticklers for following the bell and those that were otherwise delayed, are now stuck until the all clear.

But then there's the play, which as the author says, any six kids can perform, is a different beast all together. The play is written to last about seventeen minutes — perfect for a school play, especially if multiple classes are putting on performances in the same event.

As the play requires exactly one set (a multi-stall bathroom) and some way of broadcasting the announcements (which could be done with the school's actual PA system to add authenticity), the emphasis moves to the interactions of the six kids and the one big prop (the stuffed cat).

A single set play puts me happily in the mindset of a classic of wacky characters and situations, namely Arsenic and Old Lace which as a play takes place entirely in the sitting room of the boarding house. Of course, this play doesn't have any bodies in the basement or someone convinced he's Teddy Roosevelt, but it still has a similar, wacky vibe.

Four stars

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