Although Natalie Roach manipulates puppets to entertain children, she thinks American adults should see puppet shows and not miss out on "a good entertainment and educational outlet."
"In Europe, puppets are mainly used to entertain adults," said Roach, 38, a professional puppeteer and supervisor of children's services at the Yorba Linda Library, "but not in America. When adults go to puppet shows here, they say they are there because they brought the kids."
Despite that, "a lot of those adults admit they probably enjoyed it more than their children," she said. "Puppets are neat because they do draw attention and age is not that much of a factor."
Impressed by her success with puppets, husband John Roach, 41, a health club manager and amateur ventriloquist, uses a puppet to help relax his clients before they work out.
Natalie Roach, a member of the Orange County and American Puppetry guilds, said, "It's sometimes easier for people to relax and tell their troubles to a puppet than a live person."
In fact, that's more true with children, she said, relating that her puppets have helped to improve the reading skills of her son Shane, 15. "Parents are amazed when they see their children pay attention to puppets for an hour and longer," she said.
Part of that may come from the colorful puppets she makes for her shows. Many are fashioned from tennis balls, Styrofoam, papier-mache and McDonald's hamburger boxes. They take different forms and include a teddy bear, a lion and a dinosaur named "Blue."
Although she keeps 150 of the puppets at the library, the bulk of her 500-member puppet family is stored in the garage of her Garden Grove home.
Instead of small puppets, Roach makes many of her creations two feet tall to improve their visibility to audiences.
Her introduction to puppets came in college after she was assigned to make poetry interesting to children.
"I had seen a few puppet shows and kids always had their eyes glued to the puppets, so I figured that would help me with the poetry," she said.
A puppeteer for 23 years, Roach uses her skills at story time in the library, as master of ceremonies for children's programs elsewhere and at community gatherings.
She attends puppet conventions throughout the country. "When I go to a convention, I usually come back with some more puppets," she said. "It turns out to be a real blast for me."
J.A. (Zak) Ball, of Anaheim, who is searching for nesting sites of the endangered peregrine falcon in the Noatak National Preserve in Alaska, didn't have much company during his month of kayaking down the Noatak River. "I didn't see a soul for three weeks!" he wrote in a letter.
But no need to feel badly for him. He also wrote, "The Arctic midnight is like five hours of sunset shots--glorious color and shadow etched across a mirror of complete wilderness."
Ball, now in the final month of his research mission, described the area as "the wild corridors of man's best consciousness."
It took five typewritten pages for Mike Merryman, 15, of San Juan Capistrano, to chronicle the complaints of the little man in the refrigerator who turns the light off and on.
"I'll begin by describing the refrigerator policies," he quoted the little man as saying. "It is more or less a feudal system . . . divided into seven kingdoms. But it appears the broccoli will be declaring independence from the quiche."
He added, "You know when you see leftover pancakes flip by themselves, it's time to take immediate action."
Then he had the little man saying: "Simply stated, your refrigerator is in a state of chaos. If it is not cleaned soon I will be tempted to move out. If it comes to that, I'll leave you with a flashlight." It was signed Fred Gedere.
The fun writing caught the attention of judges. Merryman, a junior at St. Margaret's School in San Juan Capistrano, won second place in the humor category in a nationwide writing contest sponsored by Scholastic Inc.
He won $75.
Acknowledgments--Hatsuko (Suzie) Kusaka of Anaheim, a 10-year Disneyland Hotel employee, was named national 1987 Room Keeper of the Year by the American Hotel and Motel Assn. She was presented a $500 savings bond at a ceremony in San Francisco.