Dawn Stockbridge, Youth Services Coordinator at the Paul Smith Library of Southern York County in Shrewsbury, handles one of her puppets on stage.
Dawn Stockbridge, Youth Services Coordinator at the Paul Smith Library of Southern York County in Shrewsbury, handles one of her puppets on stage. (Randy Flaum photo - rflaum@yorkdispatch.com)
Many stories begin with "once upon a time."'

Dawn Stockbridge, youth services coordinator for the Paul Smith Library of Southern York County, has started many a story that way.

But the children attending storytime at the Shrewsbury library get to see these tales in a different way.

Stockbridge presents her stories through a puppet theater she created with help from her family and a lot of friends and neighbors.

Before coming to York, she worked at a library in Massachusetts, where she saw a puppet program she wanted to bring to Shrewsbury when she began working there.

"It all started with the Gingerbread Boy, " Stockbridge says. "We added a couple of new ones every year." There are seven or eight different shows now.

The gingerbread boy and the fox puppets are on stage.
The gingerbread boy and the fox puppets are on stage. (Randy Flaum photo - rflaum@yorkdispatch.com)

She explains most are classic fairy tales with a slightly different spin.

"All of the puppet shows have a happy ending. No one gets eaten or boiled because fairy tales can be pretty grim."

The puppet shows started off behind a book cart with minimal props and puppets Stockbridge found in a closet.

"Because the children loved them so much the library decided to invest in materials to have a more professional stage built," she said, adding her husband Jason did that work.

She writes the scripts and then pre-records the shows in her walk-in closet because it's "nice and quiet."

Jason Stockbridge edits the recordings and adds sound effects and music where needed.

"It started with me using my daughter Lily and my husband and myself."

When the neighborhood kids started to hear about it, they helped out, too.

Stockbridge holds "Puppet Theater Reading Club" at 10:30 every Thursday morning during the summer with a different puppet show each week.

During the school year, she periodically does special events.

To find out about all of the puppet shows, call the library at 235-4313 or visit their web site, yorklibraries.org, and go to the Paul Smith Library page.