Saturday, November 26, 2011

What's Basbusa reading?

I'd like to start this post with a request: can anyone recommend a favorite anthology of children's poetry?  I'd really appreciate it! I'm looking for poems aimed at the younger end of the spectrum, but not the typical "Mother Goose" collections. (We have those already, and besides, I always feel that many of the traditional nursery rhymes are more than a bit odd when you actually focus on the words...) To give an example of the kind of poem that would be ideal, "There Once Was A Puffin" is Basbusa's current favorite. 

I've been looking for just the right anthology of children's poetry for quite a while, and the Random House Book of Poetry (edited by Jack Prelutsky) is the best I've found so far. It has a "a collection of 572 poems for today's child," including old classics as well as very modern poems, very long ones and very short ones. We really liked how the poems are grouped by topic, so all the seasons-related ones are together, and all the monster-related ones are together, and so forth. We found some poems that we really loved (Prelutsky's own "The Troll" was one of our favorites), but about half of them were completely over Basbusa's head, and more than another quarter were only vaguely within her grasp. That's not surprising, I suppose, since Basbusa is only three, and this is a collection that would last us throughout childhood for all kinds of children, so I might buy us a copy anyway. My only slight criticism is that the illustrations aren't fantastic, but I suppose you couldn't really include fancy illustrations for so many poems. And besides, as Basbusa gets older, she won't need the pictures anyway.

The next book in this week's list is one which we've loved for a long time from the library, but which I was lucky enough to win a copy of from CityKidsHomeschooling! (Thanks, Kerry!) The Seven Silly Eaters has a silly, funny plot - each of the children in this family has his or her own finicky taste regarding food, and as her family grows to seven children, the poor mother grows ever more frazzled trying to cater to them all - but that's only the beginning of why we liked it. The story is in rhyme, which is always a hit with Basbusa, and the illustrations are wonderful. Basbusa likes watching as the children get older from page to page, and identifying which is which. Plus, their house gradually fills up with all the kind of kid-stuff you would expect with so many children, so there are always interesting conversations to have about which of them probably plays with which toy, and how what the kittens are doing under the table, and so forth. The children eventually stumble over a solution which means their mother no longer has to spend her days cooking seven different kinds of food, so there's a happy ending for all concerned. A truly charming book.

Perfect Soup was an accidental find as we were browsing in a train-station bookstore one day, but it's been a favorite on our shelves for almost a year now. Murray the Mouse discovers, mid-recipe, that he has no carrot to put in his Perfect Soup. On one level, the rest of the book tells the story of how Murray gets a carrot (by doing an increasingly complex set of trades with a farmer, a horse, a shopkeeper, a boy, and an old lady who likes to knit). This plot-line caught Basbusa's attention from the start, and would have made the book an enjoyable read even without anything else. But on another level, a second story is taking place; about how Murray, in his quest for perfection, was at first too busy to make time for friendship, and how, in the end, he realizes that friendship, not a carrot, is the ingredient that truly makes his soup perfect. Add all this to beautiful illustrations showing idyllic winter scenes, and you can see why this is one of our favorites.

I found Dahlia at Hope Is The Word's list of best picture books. We had to check it out, since we happen to know a very dear little girl with the same name, and I'm so glad we did. Charlotte, the heroine, is a very un-frilly little girl who strongly favors mud-pies over tea-parties. Initially, she reacts to Dahlia, a very frilly new doll, with much ambivalence. But Charlotte eventually comes to love her, and Dahlia comes to love tree-climbing. I thought Charlotte was a wonderful heroine, and I also liked how the lesson of the book went both ways: it is perfectly valid for a little girl to like outdoor exploration more than tea-parties, but it is also perfectly valid to enjoy all those outdoor activities without abandoning frills and ruffles. Plus, Charlotte's day depicted what I would think of as an ideal childhood summer, and the illustrations are lovely.

What Happens on Wednesdays is one of Basbusa's own picks from the library, and she loved it. It's just the story of one preschooler's Wednesday, from the time she wakes up until the time she goes to bed, but I think that's why Basbusa liked it so much. The narration clearly shows a preschooler's love of familiar routines of enjoyable activities, and since Basbusa is right at that stage herself, she loved following along. Plus, this little girl's day is not too different from our own, with trips to the library, the pool, the park, and to preschool, so Basbusa could easily identify with her.

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


  1. I linked you up to some of my poetry posts already, right? :-)

    I'm glad you enjoyed Dahlia. I've come to appreciate Barbara McClintock's illustrations so much--everything we've read by her has been a hit!

  2. Amy, thanks so much! I hadn't seen your response about the poetry posts, and that's just the kind of suggestion I was looking for. Hope you're feeling a bit better!