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JAMES QUIGG, DAILY PRESS
Ventriloquist Joe Gandelman teaches Mission Crest Elementary School student Ruby Chaidez how to throw her voice during his performance at the Hesperia School. Gandelman was brought to the school as a celebration for the students which exceeded reading goals.

Ventriloquist visits elementary school as reward for students' reading success

Ventriloquist Joe Gandelman had students laughing and screaming Friday in the cafeteria at Mission Crest Elementary School, as he showcased his talents with several dummies and puppets.

The Parents Club funded party was “a celebration for (the student’s) reading success,” Library Media Specialist Linda Holden said, with Gandelman’s appearance a reward for those who met their Accelerated Reader goals.

“My favorite part was the elephant and the dragon because the elephant threw out water and the dragon threw out smoke,” sixth-grader Nicolas Batres, 11, said. “That was kind of funny and I thought that was pretty cool.”

Gandelman also had an alien, a genie in a box, a turkey and a bull dog named Smiley, among others.

“I liked it a lot, I liked the bear because it was big and cute,” 10-year-old fifth-grader Arianna Giannnelli said.

“The bear was funny and it was just fascinating how he does the talking and how he makes the funny voices with his mouth and does it without moving his lips,” said third-grader Hannah Quiroz, 9.

Gandelman showed students the buttons and levers on the neck that controls the eyes, eyebrows and mouth of one dummy, telling the kids to “look at the puppet and smile,” and to avoid saying the five hardest letters: B F M V and P.

“He makes a lot of jokes, he’s good-natured, quick witted, the one kids like best,” Gandelman said of his very first dummy, John, whose head spins, tongue sticks out and ears move.

He also brought two students on stage to try their hand at being a ventriloquist.

“I love the part when he brought out the wooden people and called me up to do the puppet,” said third-grader Dezell Jones, 8. “It was fun.”

“They can see how creative they can be,” San Diego resident Gandelman said.

Gandelman, who has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University, spent five years reporting in Madrid and India in the ’70s and left the San Diego Union newspaper in 1990. At first, he said, he did ventriloquism for a hobby, as a stress reliever from his “intense” job. He volunteered in children’s hospitals, until he became a full-time ventriloquist 24 years ago.

“I’m looking forward to this being a real fun, new and interesting thing that the kids didn’t get in the past,” Holden said.

“I’m proud of not only our students, but our staff putting together inspiring lessons to get them to read,” said Principal Ryan Plescia who congratulated students in groups in his office. He said he invited them personally to the party and acknowledged their accomplishment with a certificate.

As a group the school passed 18,000 quizzes for 18,000 books read during the semester from August to December, giving the whole school 14,000 points, according to Holden.

The first quarter ended with 175 students on Oct. 11 and by the second quarter’s end on Dec. 19 there were a total of 250 students, according to Holden.

“It’s very impressive they were able to meet those goals,” Gandelman said of their accomplishment.

For more information about Gandelman or to book him for an engagement, visit www.FamilyEntertainer.com.


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