Thursday, October 27, 2011

What's Basbusa reading?

This week's picks are all non-fiction. We didn't get them all out at the same time - we usually have one or two non-fictions on hand, along with maybe twelve or thirteen fiction books. These are our favorites from the past six months or so.

Basbusa has been fascinated by the working of the human body for well over a year now, so I've been trying to make plenty of resources of all kinds available to her. As far as books go, it's been hard to find ones that are anywhere near a three-year-old level, but here are our two favorites so far.

The Human Body: Lift the Flap and Learn has interactive flaps and tabs that go way beyond the usual open-and-close type. For example, Basbusa's favorite page shows how food gets processed from mouth to - well, you know where food ends up :) The page has bits of broccoli in various states of digestion that you slide down through the esophagus, then the stomach, and then through the intestines. Finally, there's a pull-tab at the bottom, which you pull downward to reveal the "final product" of all this digestion... I know, ewwwwwwwwww, but Basbusa thinks it's hilarious and she has learned a ton from that page and from all the related questions it generated! The book is aimed at preschoolers and there's a lot that it doesn't cover, but it was just the right level of detail for Basbusa's age and interest level. My only caveat is that although the book is really very sturdy considering all the moving parts it has, it's not the kind of thing you can leave near the all-too-inquisitive fingers of a one-year-old... (For another review of the same book, please see the Infant Bibliophile, which is where I first heard about it.)

A Drop of Blood is part of the Let's-Read-And-Find-Out Science series. They have a bunch of body- and health-related titles, and we've checked out quite a few of them. They've all gotten a read or two, but this is the only one Basbusa keeps going back to. It's about the circulatory system. There's a little bit too much text for Basbusa, but by skipping a sentence or two on each page, it brings it down to the amount of information that she can handle. She was very interested in the experiment with the flashlight-in-your-mouth, and we went and got a quart container of cream from the fridge to see how much blood she, her little sister, and her dad really have in their bodies (a comparison which the vampire helpfully provides). She was fascinated by the description of how the white blood cells "eat" germs, so we got another book from the library to follow up on that.

Germs Make Me Sick is in the same science series as A Drop of Blood, and it's been just as big a success with Basbusa. It's pretty long, and her attention sometimes fades towards the end, but she chooses this one over and over again. I heard her explaining to Grandma how germs get passed around and what your body does to fight them, so something must be sinking in! I think this book is a bit beyond her level, really if I were expecting her to process all the information that's in it, but she enjoys the first two-thirds of the book enough that I thought it had earned a recommendation :)

Next up, some nature books. Basbusa really loved Gran's Bees, which isn't really pure non-fiction. It's pretty close, though - it describes a girl's visit to her grandmother, to help her harvest the honey from her beehives. There's no real plot other than to follow them through the various steps of the process, but Basbusa was intrigued. I was looking for a follow-up book on bees for months afterwards, but it's only now that the summer is over that I finally found The Beautiful Bee Book. This one is straight non-fiction, and just at Basbusa's level, explaining the life-cycle of bees, how they collect pollen and nectar, and how they communicate. The book's lift-the-flap and pull-the-tab features really do make the content more accessible, rather than just serving as added frills, and there is also a two-page spread showing the most common species of bees you might see around your garden. I think I'm going to hide this one away until next summer, and then re-read it in conjunction with Gran's Bees when there are actually some real bees outside to look at.

Gosh, this post has gotten way too long, but just two more quick ones!

Why Do Leaves Change Color? was a very interesting read for me, and I had thought it would be great for Basbusa. (For example, did you know that the yellow and orange are already present in leaves, but are usually drowned out by all the green? Once the leaves stop producing chlorophyll, you can finally see the other colors that were already there. It's only the red color that is the result of sugar crystallization.) The illustrations were clear and attractive, and most of the information was at Basbusa's level (I skipped over the parts that talked about cell structure in detail). However, on her first read through this one, Basbusa made up her own plot, which was fascinating and very exciting but had nothing whatsoever to do with the science of fall colors. She "re-read" this one a zillion times, elaborating more on her own personal interpretation each time through it, and was 100% against hearing anything about what else the text might have been saying :) So it was certainly a big hit with both of us... even if not for quite the same reasons!

And last up, Where Does the Garbage Go? This one was a little bit dated - it talked as if recycling were quite a recent innovation - but for Basbusa's purposes, it provided very interesting background info surrounding one of her favorite events: the much-anticipated weekly arrival of the garbage trucks :) She was interested to see where they go after they pick up our trash, and she liked examining the illustrations of the big, complicated machines and conveyor belts that recycle the glass, paper and plastic. (I think these machines were largely imaginary rather than being realistic representations of what a recycling plant really looks like, but Basbusa got the idea that old plastic went in and new plastic came out, which is good enough for now.) We've been looking for the triangular-arrows recycling symbol on packages ever since, so it's helped her know where to throw things away too.

Linking up with What My Child is Reading and Read-Aloud Thursday.

education research: positive coaching

The following is an excerpt from "The Power of Positive Coaching," part of the New York Time's Fixes series. The Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) feels that competitiveness and a winning-is-everything approach have become dominant in youth sports, and aims to change that. But the reason I'm quoting this article here is because I think the PCA's way of teaching kids to respond to challenges or disappointments would be a way I think would work well in any setting, sports or otherwise.

"Sports psychologists know that athletes who focus on things they can control, as opposed to external factors, are less anxious, more confident, and consequentially, happier and better performers. ... [Jim Thompson, founder of the PCA] came up with the 'ELM Tree of Mastery' to help coaches remember that the feedback that most helps young athletes develop their potential is not praise for good performance or criticism for bad performance. What works best is helping children understand that they control three key variables: their level of Effort, whether they Learn from experiences, and how they respond to Mistakes. 

... 'If a child misses a big play, it's a perfect opportunity to talk about resiliency,' explains Thompson. 'I know you're disappointed and I feel bad for you, but the question is what are you going to do now? Are you going to hang your head? Or are you going to bounce back with renewed determination? The single most important thing we do is help coaches teach kids not to be afraid to make mistakes,' he adds."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What's Basbusa reading?

The Circus Ship is one of our all-time favorite books, and has been ever since the first reading. We've loved everything by Chris Van Dusen, as I've mentioned before, but this one is one of the best picture books I've ever read. The basic story  is that after a circus ship sinks, the fifteen circus animals end up swimming ashore to an island off the coast of Maine. The astonishment they cause there, and then their plan to avoid being re-captured by the circus boss, are very funny. ("Soon animals were everywhere, and into everything. / 'There's an ostrich in the outhouse!' / 'There's a hippo in the spring!' / 'There's a tiger in the tulips!' / 'There's a lion on the lawn!' / 'There's a python in the pantry!' / It went on and on and on...") But the best bit has to be the circus boss himself, Mr. Paine. He's an arrogant, dictatorial bad-guy who is sooooo much fun to read aloud. "But Mr. Paine, the circus boss, was terribly demanding. / He stomped up to the helm where Captain Carrington was standing, / and screamed, "Don't stop! Keep going! I've got a show to do! / Just get me down to Boston town tomorrow, sir, by two!" He's overblown but only enough to make it fun, not ridiculous (and I love hearing Basbusa's "big mean bad-guy" voice when she says his lines!). The illustrations are great, with lots of little details to discover during re-readings, and Basbusa loves finding the animals hidden in plain sight, to the complete bafflement of Mr. Paine.

I know that the entire world adores Mo Willems, and indeed Knuffle Bunny was one of the first library books that we renewed so often we ended up buying our own copy. But neither of the sequels quite caught Basbusa's imagination (Knuffle Bunny Free, in particular, went straight over her head). The pigeon books are hit-or-miss (for us - I know most people seem to love them). Basbusa loved The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog, and we actually had a whole lot of interesting discussions around that one, about why the duckling was asking so many questions, and why the pigeon was getting so annoyed... And it's thanks to Pigeon that "Oh, for Pete's sake!" (plus forehead-slaps) is still part of Basbusa's repertoire ;) But Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus? Nope, not much interest. Hooray for Amanda and her Alligator? So-so. And that Cat-the-cat series just leaves both of us blank. BUT... to get back to the book at hand, Basbusa does like Elephant and Piggie! I Broke My Trunk is one of our favorites so far. Gerald breaks his trunk - not by carrying two hippos, a rhino and a piano on it, but by tripping on his way to tell Piggie all about it. And Piggie thinks the story is so funny that she rushes off to tell somebody else... and trips... The text is simple enough that Basbusa can "read" it to herself, and the plot is funny enough to keep her re-reading.

Jez Alborough is another author we love, and Where's My Teddy? is the book that first introduced us to him. A boy and a bear get their teddy-bears mixed up, scare the daylights out of each other in the process of exchanging them, and both run away home to the safety of their own cozy beds. It's all in rhyme, and I love how the pace matches the plot. The sentences are longer at first, with one sentence spanning several lines of rhyme, but the climax all happens in a few short lines, when the bear and the boy stumble across each other, each holding the other's stuffed toy: "'My Ted! gasped the bear. / 'A bear!' screamed Eddie. / 'A boy!!' yelled the bear. / 'My Teddy!' cried Eddie." Then, reunited with their teddies, they both run for their lives :)

The Mystery of King Karfu is really a bit advanced for Basbusa - she needed quite a bit of help to understand the plot, and the first few times we read it, I just told the story in Arabic rather than reading aloud the English. The book is the story of a food-loving wombat detective named Seymour Sleuth. He is called to Egypt to help an archaeologist friend recover an ancient stone chicken, which has been stolen from the tomb of King Karfu. Rather than the usual text-with-pictures format, this whole book is composed to look like a casebook, with ticket stubs "pasted" in, "photos" of evidence, and Seymour's notes on his interviews with suspects. This was Basbusa's first detective story, and I think probably also the first time she had come across the idea of detectives in general, and she found the concept very interesting. She liked looking for clues (comparing feet to footprints, for example), and she liked the unstated jokes (Seymour Sleuth's 'light snacks', for example, which usually include enough food for a banquet). There were a lot of jokes that she just wasn't old enough for, but which made it fun for me to re-read! I'm not completely sure that she ever 100% got the concept, but she must have gotten the general idea, because she often chose to read it, either with me or "by herself."

My Birthday Cake is an easy-reader book, and so far I've found most of them to be tedious beyond belief. This one, though, I'd rate as "not bad," which puts it way ahead of most easy-readers we've seen so far. It's a rhyming book about the birthday cake a little girl makes for herself: "My cake will be yummy! My cake will be sweet! My cake will have all the things I like to eat!" And sure enough, it does - candies and donuts and cookies and lollipops and cherries, etc... Basbusa was a big fan of the ingredient list :) In the end, though, she puts on too much blue frosting and ends up preferring the cake her mom has made for her. Not wildly fascinating, but appealing subject-matter for my little sugarcake, and not bad as easy-readers go.

Linking up with What My Child is Reading and Read-Aloud Thursday.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What's Basbusa reading?

The books in this week's review are ones which Basbusa really liked when she was two or two-and-a-half, and still likes going back to every so often even now (at 3-and-a-quarter). I think she sees them as "light relief" from the picture books she mainly reads these days, with their more complicated plots and vocabulary. I hadn't really noticed how her taste has changed lately, until I came across these titles on my giant still-to-be-blogged-about list, and found myself thinking, "oh, but those are 'little-kid' books..."

Oh, A-Hunting We Will Go takes the old childhood rhyme ("A-hunting we will go, a-hunting we will go, we'll catch a fox and put him in a box, and then we'll let him go!") and adds a bunch of equally silly new verses (for example, we'll catch a snake and put him in a cake; we'll catch a brontosaurus and put him in a chorus...). I can't say I was wild about it myself, but Basbusa found it hilarious :) And she loved being able to use the rhyme to predict what would happen to each animal. We're definitely not talking classic children's literature here, but Basbusa did enjoy it.

No More Blanket for Lambkin was on our library's display shelf for weeks and I never even glanced through it, having assumed that it was some book aimed at helping kids learn to give up their blankies. In the end, Basbusa went and got it, and it turned out to be much better than I had thought. In the course of a playdate for Lambkin and Ducky, Ducky manages to detatch Lambkin from his blanket for long enough to throw it in the sink along with all the doll-clothes they are washing. Lambkin goes along with this plan very reluctantly at first, but then is beguiled by the fun of splashing and bubbles - until it turns out that her beloved blanket now has holes in it!! Oh no!! But Ducky comes up with a cute idea to put things right again. A nice, light read with a straightforward plot.

So Many Bunnies is "A Bedtime ABC and Counting Book." With so much ground to cover, you'd think it would surely be a dry and ugly set of flashcards in disguise, right? But no, it's actually sweet and quite a fun read! "Old Mother Rabbit lived in a shoe./ She had 26 children and knew what to do: / She gave them some carrots, some broth and some bread, / she kissed them all gently and put them to bed." And from there on, the text goes through all the odd places her children sleep. "1 was named Abel, he slept on the table. 2 was named Blair, she slept on a chair." And so forth, on through the alphabet. Basbusa's favorite is Mandy, number 13, who "slept in the candy" :) And after Mother Rabbit has finally gotten them all tucked up and gone to bed herself... all 26 bunnies arrive to snuggle up beside her in her bed. Very pretty illustrations with lots of detail and plenty to talk about.

Rockabye Farm is the story of a farmer who lovingly rocks each animal to sleep before rocking himself to sleep in his rocking chair at the end of the book. That's pretty much it, in terms of plot, but Basbusa liked the illustrations. It's not so hard to rock a chicken, but by the time he's rocking cows and horses, the cheery farmer has to go get his tractor or his hay-cart. It looks like this version is out of print, though, and the new, boardbook version doesn't get such good reviews on Amazon, though, just so you know.

Linking up with What My Child is Reading.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Education Research: individualizing education

The following are excerpts from the Fall 2011 edition of Independent School, the magazine of the National Association of Independent Schools. The article, "Acknowledging the 'I' in Education: School Redesign from the Ground Up," is by Ryan Wooley, a director of technology, library and media services at a school in Ohio. I like what he's saying, and I really like the sample student schedule he has given at the end. (How feasible it would be to implement for 400 students in a private school, or 1,800 students in a public school, is another question, which luckily I don't have to answer!) A school setting that offered this kind of schedule for a high-school student is one I'd be happy with for my girls, I think, whether it was a "school", a co-op, or a homeschool that was providing it.

"... shouldn't we ask, 'What do we want from schools in 2011 that is not facilitated by their fundamental design? ... Schools are not designed to attend to individual need. Even the most progressive schools are organized around arbitrary units of time. Do I spend a year taking chemistry because that is how long it takes me to learn it? ... What would the structure look like if designed from the perspective of student need? Here is a possibility: students would progress through a topic as they were ready... Students would be the architects of their own learning paths."


"I'm suggesting that we don't need teachers to teach content [because content can be learned from online lectures etc]. Lesson plans should be burned in a giant, glorious bonfire. ... We need to give teachers a new job description. We need them to help students articulate learning paths. We need them to advise and mentor, connect, and encourage. ... Teachers should look more like travel agents - the really good ones who get more excited about your Alaskan cruise than you do."


"[A student's] day might look like the following:
8:00-8:30am - School Meeting in the Auditorium
8:35-9:35am - Meet with science teacher for bi-weekly progress review [of the science curriculum she has designed for herself - the teacher discusses any questions with her, points her towards an upcoming conference on the topic that she might like to attend, and suggests that she schedule a particular lab exercise with the science lab specialist]
9:45-11:45am - writing workshop with writing group
11:45-12:20pm - lunch
12:30-1:00pm - Skype conversation with Chinese-language exchange partner
1:05-1:55pm - Open learning time for group projects / individual exploration
2:00-3:15pm - Live human model drawing"

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Education research: project-based schools...

The following are excerpts from the Basset Blog, which is the blog of the president of the National Association of Independent Schools.

'"The only time my education was interrupted was when I was in school." - Attributed to George Bernard Shaw.
"It's a miracle that curiosity survives formal education." - Attributed to Albert Einstein.

The quotations above ... capture what many kids experience in too many American classrooms - some inertia point among mental exhaustion, confusion, boredom, and drudgery. ... except for the time between classes, before school, and after school, when you got to do what you wanted to do, with your friends. Wait a minute! That's a novel thought: getting to do what you want to do with your friends in class, not just between and after class." ...

And the solution? He says, "this happens increasingly via real-world, team-based problem-solving, and with engagement in the creative arts fully and vigorously. My grandson Carter is now 12, a seventh-grader attending the Watershed School (Colorado), an experiential and project-based independet school in Boulder."

I've heard about these kinds of "project-based" schools before. I must go find out more about them, see if we have any in our area, and see how much they cost...

Monday, October 10, 2011

My ideal homeschool set-up

I've been thinking a lot about what kind of homeschooling arrangements would work best for us, in an ideal world where all of this was miraculously feasible. While Basbusa is still so young - say, age 3 through 5 - I think what I'd like is this:

  • Two days a week having "school" in the morning with one or two other families living nearby with kids near her age. We could trade off whose house it would be held in, so that each of the moms would get at least one or two "mornings off" per week. As for what the kids would do, well, "something educational." We could have a project or two lined up to suggest to them each time, but if they were more interested in just having a playdate on any given day, that would be fine with me, while they're so small.
  • Three days a week at home with me in the mornings - for the preK/K age I'm tentatively thinking of doing maybe 15 minutes a day of Right Start math, and otherwise just making sure that we're reading plenty of books, doing lots of drawing and painting and building things, and having interesting discussions. Plus Quran every day, of course.
  • In the afternoons, we would do errands, playground meet-ups, young-homeschooler hikes, housework, go swimming, etc. 
  • On Saturdays, I'm thinking I might send Basbusa to the "Saturday School" at our local masjid. It's a long day for little kids - 9am to 3pm - but I've heard they do play as well as learn, and it would be a way for her to make other Arabic-speaking friends (she only has three of those at the moment, and they will all be leaving the US in a few more months). If Basbusa didn't have any other formal schooling during the week, then I wouldn't feel so bad about one day of sit-in-a-chair-and-pay-attention on Saturdays.
And how realistic is all this? Well, I don't know of any local homeschooling families who might want to team up with us for those two mornings a week (the one family which might have is also leaving the country soon), but we have a whole year to keep looking, and I have only just begun to get to know the homeschooling community. 

And the three days a week of homeschooling by ourselves? Well, we're slowwwwwwly getting better about making sure that Quran-memorizing does happen every day, and that was the thing that had really been worrying me about my own ability to homeschool (if I can't even make sure we do Quran, then what on earth would happen to math?!?). It's still nowhere like routine, though. But we have a year to keep trying to get better.

And the Saturday school would be easy to enroll her in; I just have to go check it out in person to make sure their educational methods aren't too scary :)

So, we'll see. This arrangement might be feasible, but we'll still have to spend this year ironing out the wrinkles. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What's Basbusa Reading?

Snip Snap! What's That? was a huge favorite, and Basbusa is already requesting that we get it out of the library again. The basic plot is that an alligator, who has emerged from the sewer, comes closer and closer to three children who are home alone in their apartment. The alligator is only suggested at first, with footprints... and then with the end of his tail... and then with a tail plus some feet... while the text mirrors the progression: at each stage, it repeats the question and answer, "Were the children scared? You bet they were!" in ever-larger font. I'll never forget the first time we read this one, because by the time we got to the climax - a two-page spread with nothing but a huge, open alligator mouth on them - Basbusa was holding her breath! But then "the children decided they'd had enough/ of all this scary alligator stuff" and shout at it to go away, which the alligator, tremendously taken-aback by this turn of events, does. Whew! :) This summary makes it sound scarier than it really was - trust me, Basbusa is not the bravest of tots, and this would never have made it past the first reading if it were truly frightening. I also liked that the text wasn't completely in rhyme, but had enough rhyme and rhythm to build up the suspense. Plus, the recurring question and answer made it easy for Basbusa to "read" this one to herself.

Penguin is about a boy who gets a toy penguin for his birthday, and tries everything he can think of to make the penguin talk to him. The penguin, unsurprisingly, doesn't. So the boy, completely frustrated, tries to feed the penguin to a passing lion. After the surprising climax of the story, the penguin, in a language all of his own, suddenly starts talking. We liked this one because the story is simple but has an unexpected twist, and a happy ending. Also, Basbusa could relate to the tantrum that the little boy throws when he's completely frustrated! I also liked that the text had only one, quite simple, sentence per page, making it easy for Basbusa to "read" it to herself.

The Perfect Nest was such a fun read. It's about a cat called Jack who builds a nest to attract a chicken, in the hopes of making himself some omelets. But it's such a good nest that it attracts not only a chicken (with a Spanish accent), but also a duck (with a French accent) AND a goose (with a silly American accent). The three birds squabble over the nest and all three refuse to leave it, despite Jack's best efforts to coax them away. In the end, well, Jack doesn't get his omelets, but he gets something else instead. Three somethings else :) The story itself is funny, and it's a great read-aloud because you can do lots of silly accents. Plus, the illustrations have lots of extra details to look at, elaborating on what's in the text.

One Night in the Zoo is technically a counting book, but the progression of numbers fades into the background of a story about what the animals in the zoo get up to during the night, while nobody is there to see. I liked that the numbers part was so understated, because Basbusa is never very interested in books which are really just thinly-disguised math lessons (or any kind of lessons, really). This rhyming story has a recurring line, "...but nobody knew," which generated a sweet moment the first time we read it. The very last page, after the animals have all made it back to their cages just in time, shows a chimp repeating the same refrain, but pointing at the reader, and adding, "except YOU!" Basbusa was surprised and very flattered. "Except me? Does he really mean me...?" :)

The Black Book of Colors is another book which Basbusa picked out for herself at the library, but which I would never have thought of looking for in a million years. But we got a lot out of it! The whole book is black, and the text - in both English and Braille - gives one-sentence descriptions of what each color "looks" like (for example, "yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick's feathers"). Each facing page has embossed pictures (still black-on-black) illustrating the things described in the text. Basbusa enjoyed the book for its own sake, and liked trying to feel the pictures. She had never learned about blindness before, so we also watched some videos on youtube showing kids reading and writing Braille, which she found very interesting.
Linking up with Read-Aloud Thursday and What My Child is Reading.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Homeschool or Not?.... An example of what worries me

This week was an example of just the kind of thing I worry about in terms of the practical obstacles between homeschooling in theory and homeschooling in practice.

The week was supposed to be filled with wonderful homeschool-ish opportunities: Monday was to be a trip to the zoo with a Massachusetts Muslim Homeschoolers group; Wednesday was supposed to be the first meeting of our homeschool preschool Chinese class, and then a weekly get-together at a park with another homeschool group that includes - yay!!! - another Egyptian three-year-old girl; and Friday was to be a hike with a young homeschoolers group. Sounds great, right? 

In reality, though, the only two days which went as planned were Tuesday and Thursday: the days when Basbusa has preschool. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. (I signed her up for this preschool back when I was panicking that she had no friends to play with at all, before I had learned much about homeschooling. The money is already paid, and she enjoys it. And it's all play, no academics.) 

On Monday, it turned out that through miscommunication, some of the Muslim homeschoolers were headed for our nearest zoo, while the others were headed for one that is further away. I couldn't get confirmation that anyone else was definitely going to the nearby one, and it turned out that all but one family canceled on the farther one, due to forecast rain. Actually, the cancelled trip gave us an opportunity to go to the weekly park-day of another young homeschoolers group, which was great, but involved a lot more time in the car. 

On Wednesday, the Chinese class turned out to be just what I had been hoping and we met two new great homeschooling families, but there were a few complications. It started an hour late because of transportation difficulties - which was no problem for us now, but suppose Basbusa was old enough for "real" homeschooling, and had other classes or activities lined up? One of her best friends was supposed to have been coming too, but had to cancel because her little brother was sick. And we couldn't go to the meet-up at the park because my dearest Other Half thinks I've been spending too much money on gas lately :( So we went to a local park by ourselves instead.

On Friday, it turned out that this week's young-homeschooler-hike is too far away (considering that Basbusa isn't likely to make it through more than about 20 minutes of the hike in any case :) But we had a playdate with a friend instead, and the girls had a great time playing together.

Hmmmm... Looking back on it, though, we still did get a lot out of our homeschooling activities on Monday and Wednesday, despite the changes in plan. So I guess I should get used to the idea that even a good homeschooling week would involve more flexibility and less predictability than a traditional school week. And that I'll need to find a way of reaching a family consensus that homeschooling is going to have certain costs in terms of gas mileage!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

What's Basbusa reading?

Without at all planning to, we've somehow stumbled over a whole trove of wonderful wordless picture books recently. "Wordless" doesn't mean "baby", though - I think Basbusa wouldn't have been able to follow almost any of these until quite recently, because the plots are quite complex. It's fantastic for both of us to have such good books for non-readers, because she can "read" without having to depend on me for help, and I can enjoy a few minutes of extra time here and there while she's absorbed in a book!

In the town, all year 'round has been one of our favorites for over a year. It just shows what's happening in a town during the course of a year, with a section for each season, but the same cast of characters shows up throughout the book, and there are a million mini-plots to discover as you read (and re-read and re-read and re-read). We have read this book more times than I can even imagine, and still, just the other day, we were reading it upside-down (don't ask), and I noticed yet another sub-plot that had not caught my eye before.

The Adventures of Polo is like a comic book without words, about an adventurous little dog who explores his way through all kinds of places (e.g. the north pole, a desert island with volcanoes, under the sea, outer space) before ending up back home again. The plot, to my taste, gets just a little bit old somewhere around the fifty-second or fifty-third re-reading - you could basically sum it up as "Oh no!! ... Whew!! ... Oh no!!! ... Whew!!! etc - but Basbusa doesn't seem to have any problem with it, and she re-reads it to herself all the time. There are several other Polo books in the series, if your child really likes it.

Clown by Quentin Blake is a charming story of a toy clown, thrown out with a bunch of other old toys, who has managed to jump out of the trash can himself, and is desperately trying to find a child who will come and help him rescue his friends. Eventually, he finds a girl who has all kinds of troubles too, and they help each other to a happy ending. The story itself is both sweet and interesting, but Basbusa really had to use her brain to figure out the plot from the pictures (an older child would have had no trouble). For me, another reason to like this book was Quentin Blake's illustrations - he illustrated all of Roald Dahl's books, so his pictures evoked all kinds of fond childhood memories :)

Fox and Hen Together - well, this one was a huge favorite with Basbusa, but I think a few words of warning might be in order regarding the back-story! In this book, which is part two of a three-part series, Fox and Hen (now happily married and expecting a... well... expecting something in an egg) find there's no food left in the fridge. So Hen gives the egg to Fox to look after, and goes fishing. Adventures ensue; she ends up catching a sea-monster, and they barbeque it on the beach, snuggling their newly-hatched fox-chick. No problems so far, right? (A slightly odd moment when Hen walks in after fishing, sees an empty eggshell and a frying pan on the table, and thinks for a moment that Fox has eaten the baby, but Basbusa seemed to take it in stride.) But just so you know, the first book in this series (The Chicken Thief), the story of how Fox and Hen ended up together isn't quite so PG-rated! Basbusa was oblivious, thank goodness, despite all her millions of re-readings, but I was somewhat alarmed when I realized what was actually happening in the story.... Hmmm...

I've said before how much we love Shirley Hughes, and this book was no exception! It's about a little girl who learns how to fly. Basbusa enjoyed following her adventures as she surprised her parents and classmates, and eluded an annoyed neighbor who was chasing her in his hot-air balloon. I think Basbusa was envisioning herself as the little girl who suddenly found herself able to soar skywards, because that theme suddenly cropped up in a whole bunch of her pretend games over the next few days :)

Deep in the Forest is Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but backwards (a baby bear comes into Goldilocks' house and causes havoc). Its's sweet and Basbusa enjoyed it. I guess this one's a classic, but somehow I'd never heard of it?

 And lastly, The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher. I myself thought this one was a little strange, both in terms of plot (an old lady trying to make it home with her bag of strawberries, pursued every step of the way by a very odd-looking thief) and of illustrations (I would describe them as "interesting" rather than attractive). I wouldn't have included this one here except that Basbusa really liked it, and that it's a Caldecott Honor Book, so I guess Basbusa can't be the only one! The old lady does make it home safely, and the thief ends up finding a blackberry bush instead.

Linking up with What My Child is Reading and Read-Aloud Thursday.