For the past few years, I’ve been making crankies with my classes. Crankies (so named because you crank them) are scrolling pictures that usually accompany a song, story, or poem. They are a traditional Appalachian art form, but have cousins in many times and places. There are miniature ones — my friend made one out of an Altoid box and some pencils that said (letter by letter) HAPPY BIRTHDAY! — and enormous ones. Ours are in the middle. We use scrolls of butcher paper. We make them collaboratively, using beeswax crayons. We have illustrated songs, poems, and hand-clap rhymes, written our own crazy stories, and made one with shadow puppets to illustrate a folktale. They help the students integrate the songs, poems, and stories we learn, are an excellent exercise in collaboration, and make a fine thing to share with the families at our periodic poetry readings.

I first got inspired to make crankies when someone showed me the work of Anna and Elizabeth. My favorite is their version of the banjo tune The Lost Gander.

I am working on getting some videos of a few of our crankies up, and I will share them when I do. But even better, Frog Hollow has been asked to perform one of our crankies! So if you would like to see some crankies live, come join us at the Seattle Crankie Festival, 8pm February 21st at the Northwest Puppet Center, 9123 15th Ave NE, Seattle. Details (and many, many examples of crankies) at The Crankie Factory.