Thursday, January 26, 2012

What's Basbusa reading?

Hurry Down to Derry Fair was just a sweet story with lovely illustrations. It's about a little boy who is bubbling over with excitement about his family's trip to their local fair, but finds himself having to wait for his mother to finish baking pies, for his sister to finish preparing her pets, and for his father to finish chopping wood. Finally, his grandmother takes pity on him, and off they go! The last page is a fold-out illustration of the whole fair at one glance, and the reader can look for the boy and all his family to see what they're doing at the fair. It's hard to say much about this book other than it has delightful illustrations and a sweet but simple plot, but if your child (like Basbusa) just loves fairs in any case, it's certainly a very enjoyable read!

Much as Basbusa enjoyed Neville, I think the main point of the plot was actually a bit over her head. The story is about a boy who has to move to a new neighborhood, and is sure he'll be miserable, with no friends and a new school. But while out on a dispirited walk to explore his new neighborhood, he gets an idea: he starts calling for "Neville!" at the top of his voice. Gradually other children join in to help, and to help each other help, and eventually the boy is at the middle of a whole group of cheerfully yelling children. The kids soon start asking about Neville, what he likes to play and whether he's nice, and sound very interested in getting to know him. They never find him, but agree to meet up the next day to keep looking. It turns out, after the boy has gone home delighted with all the kids he's met in his new neighborhood, that the boy himself is Neville.

How much of this plot did Basbusa get? Well, she got that all the kids were looking for someone called Neville. I tried a few times to explain that this was the boy's smart way of making new friends, but she didn't really get it, and I didn't want to spoil her enjoyment of the story by insisting on full comprehension :) Which left me wondering why exactly she liked it so much, given that her version of the plot was really pretty thin! She liked the kids' attempts to yell as LOUD AS THEY POSSIBLY COULD, and she liked how different fonts and colors were used to show the different kinds of "Neville!"s for each kid. Other than that, I think the big draw was simply that it was an example of group dynamics and kids interacting. She seems fascinated with the details of social interactions these days.

I'd definitely recommend this book for a slightly older child who was able to sympathize better with a child's worry over making new friends. Just one note - there was one sentence I always skipped, in which Neville gloomily anticipates that all the kids (and the teacher!) in his new school will make fun of him and be mean to him because he's new. Basbusa hasn't yet figured out that kids can intentionally say hurtful things, and I'm not in any rush to heighten her awareness.

I read Big Sister and Little Sister at some point during my own childhood, but had long forgotten the name of the book, and I don't think I ever knew the name of the author. Fond memories of the story were all that remained. But I was so glad to stumble across it again, for my own sake as well as for Basbusa's! It's the story of two sisters who are love each other very much, but whose relationship is beginning to change: the Little Sister starts to feel that she doesn't need to be taken care of so much, and that she'd like to try a little more independence. So she secretly goes off to hide in the meadow by herself - only to discover that her lonely and worried Big Sister also cries sometimes, and also needs to be comforted. From that day on, both sisters took care of each other, "because Little Sister had learned from Big Sister, and now they both knew how." Such a sweet story, and an idyllic model of the relationship between sisters. Basbusa enjoyed it many times over, and I hope she and her own little sister will always be as close as the girls in the book!

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything is clearly way out of season, since it's a Halloween book. We ordered it around Halloween, but were at the very end of a long list of requesters at the library, so Halloween was long over by the time it was our turn. That didn't bother Basbusa, though! She read this one over and over again, and since the text is repetitive, she soon had it memorized and could "read" it to herself with no help. It's a tale of a little old lady who is pursued through the forest by a pair of shoes, a pair of pants, a shirt, a pair of gloves, a top hat, and ultimately a big scary orange pumpkin head. She bravely defies them until a BOO! from the pumpkin finally breaks her nerve - but she soon comes up with a good solution for herself and for the scare-happy clothes. We'll make sure to get to the top of the list for this one next October!

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


  1. I think my boys would really like Neville, thanks for the review!

  2. We had the fair book a while back, and I think I liked it better than my girls. However, now that my younger, art-loving daughter is a little older, I think she might appreciate the lovely illustrations more.
    Neville looks like a lot of fun, and the sisters book looks like one I would love!

  3. These are great selections. We read Neville too, and I don't think my 5 year old got the plot either. I was actually wondering how Neville is going to explain to his new friends his trick tomorrow. Thanks for joining WMCIR!

  4. I've seen Neville on a few blogs now, but I haven't gotten around to reading it. It's on my list, though.