The Master Puppeteer is an exciting and enchanting work of historical fiction by the Newberry Medal-winning author Katherine Paterson.
Taking place in old Japan, in the ancient city of Osaka, it is the story of the son of the poor puppet maker, Jiro. Jiro, his father Hanji, and his mother Isako are very poor. In fact, the entire Osaka is very poor because of a famine going on, except for the rich people like rice brokers and theatre owners. There is only one hope for the poor—the legendary Robin Hood-style bandit, Saburo (the man on the front cover), who robs from the rich and gives to the poor.
Because they are poor, Jiro tries to become an apprentice at the Hanaza—the puppet theatre that Hanji makes puppets for. And the Hanaza has lots of food and money! He wants only to help his family. He succeeds, and makes four good friends—the other apprentices, Teiji, Minoru, Wada, and, best of all, Kinshi. Kinshi is the son of the master puppeteer, Yoshida. Jiro fits right into life at the Hanaza, and finds a talent in himself as a foot operator, especially for female dolls, which are the hardest. Jiro even builds up ambition in himself.
But, just when Jiro finds he likes his new life, he discovers that his best friend Kinshi is going out every night to be with the night rovers, the mobs of angry, hungry, poor people who go around trying to break into the rich people’s homes—at night. Jiro doesn’t want Kinshi to get hurt, so he makes a deal with Kinshi: If Jiro can arrange a meeting between the bandit Saburo and Kinshi, then Kinshi will stop going out, because Kinshi wants to join Saburo’s team. It’s a deal! But how can Jiro do that? Nobody knows who Saburo really is except the people under him. Well, one day, while going to the storehouse to pick up an old doll to practice on, Jiro had lingered a moment and stepped into the shadows. There, in the dark corner, while putting his arm out to feel and move, he had felt something sharp. He brought it down and looked—and it was Saburo’s famous sword, stolen from the authorities!
He guesses immediately and hastily that Saburo is actually Yoshida—a little too hastily. He goes to the only person he can trust, Okada, the old chanter who lived in the east wing and who had originally taught Yoshida. He tells Okada everything. Okada agrees to arrange the meeting—if Jiro could get the sword for evidence. Jiro is happy, and goes to the storehouse to do so. But there, Jiro meets a big surprise, bigger than any he has ever expected.
Who is the real Saburo, and what will happen to Jiro now? Read the book to find out!
For this book, I wanted to do my own puppet show. So using two puppets, a magician (right) and Pinocchio (left). I made up my own story, complete with a moral, called “The Magician’s Tale.” I even pretended it was part of a series of moral stories!
Here is the script I made:
THE MAGICIAN’S TALE: A Puppet Show Script
THE MAGICIAN’S TALE
MAGICIAN: ♪♫ Come with me, and you’ll be in a world purely of my creation. Stay to watch, and you’ll see…
MAGICIAN: “The Story of The Woodcutter and the Magician.” Narrated by me, the magician. This tale comes from a faraway land — the Empire of Rome. A woodcutter named Pinocchio lived in a small village near the town of Napoli. (Pinocchio, his cart, and his hut appear to the side of the stage) He made his living by cutting wood, and collecting it all, including sh vings, in a large wagon at the end of every 10 days, and he would take it to the market. Here, I’ll leave it to Pinocchio.
(Pinocchio pushes cart across the stage) PINOCCHIO: (hums tune) I am pushing my cart to the town, and I may get enough to feed myself for a couple of weeks.
(Magician appears on the side of the stage, in a weak Minstrel’s voice—he is now a minstrel) MINSTREL: Oh! I am starving!I need something! Pleas ! I do not have strength to sing for you, although I am a traveling minstrel.
PINOCCHIO: Oh! I don’t have anything. I am so sorry. (looks at cart) Wait a minute! Here’s some pasta I had packed for my journey. You can have it instead!
MINSTREL: Thank you so much! (disappears offstage)
PINOCCHIO: What ? Where’d he go? (Unnoticed, a backdrop of the city comes onstage) Oh, anyways, I’ve reached town and must sell my things.
(Pinocchio disappears, then comes back with a purse full of copper coins—pennies, that is. The backdrop of the city disappears.)
PINOCCHIO: Ho! I am very tired. I think I will sit down a little and rest here.
(Minstrel comes onstage, and lies down to rest) PINOCCHIO: Oh! Hello there! You are the man I gave food to, right?
MINSTREL: Yes, thank you for it! It helped me a lot.
PINOCCHIO: You know what, you must need this more than I do, I think. You should have this money of mine.
(Minstrel protests weakly, but Pinocchio leaves it and dances offstage. Minstrel turns into Magician.)
MAGICIAN’S DEEP VOICE: Well, well, well— our character, Pinocchio, has been behaving very generously, has he not? I wonder what will happen to him next, don’t you?
(Pinocchio comes back home, only to find a castle in place of his hut) PINOCCHIO: What? Where am I? Is it that I have traveled to another place, and it is a big city with a castle. Where is my home? I thought it was right here where the castle now is. Hey! the “HOME SWEET HOME” label on my hut is on this castle! What’s going on?
FAINT BUT DEEP VOICE ECHOING AROUND THE STAGE: YOUR HUT IS THE CASTLE, YOUR HUT IS THE CASTLE, YOUR HUT IS THE CASTLE….
PINOCCHIO: (suddenly understanding) Hey! My hut is the castle! What…how…did this happen?
(Magician appears in front of Pinocchio) MAGICIAN: You were so kind to the minstrel—who was me in disguise. You gave him all your hard-earned money, not to mention your food. And, I have rewarded you with this: I CROWN YOU THE EMPEROR OF ALL ROME, AUGUSTUS THE GREAT!
(Pinocchio—well, now Augustus the Great, dances offstage in ecstasy, and his castle follows him there, leaving only the great Magician onstage, to talk with the audience.) MAGICIAN: ♪♫ And the moral of the story is, If you do good to others, good will come unto you. Farewell, until next time!
Above, I have four photos in a slideshow of my puppet show with captions describing what is going on in them.