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.


  1. That first one looks like a lot of fun--I've never seen it until now. I hate to admit it, so I'm going to whisper it. . . I feel the same way about Mo Willems' books, with the exception of Knuffle Bunny. (Don't tell anyone!) My girls and I really like that one. And I totally agree about the inanity of most early readers. :-)

    So glad you linked up today!

  2. I am with you on easy readers - SO glad I don't need to read them anymore. We read some stories set in an unusual formats - and I agree with you, it works better for much older kids or adults. Thanks for joining WMCIR!