Thursday, February 2, 2012

What's Basbusa reading?

It hadn't even crossed my mind to think about starting chapter books with Basbusa. She's only three and a half, and I'm pretty sure my mum didn't start reading chapter books with me until I was much, much older than that. But I noticed that all my favorite blogs for picture-book recommendations were also talking about the chapter books they were reading with their preschoolers, so I thought I'd give it a try.

It's been fantastic! We read a chapter a night by the light of her night-light, while she's tucked up in bed, which we could never do with picture books because Basbusa would insist on sitting up and leaving the lights on so that she could see properly. Plus, when she's stalling during the last stages of the going-to-bed process, the phrase "but don't you want to find out what happens next to ...?" has proven nearly magical. Or, as a last resort, I wander nonchalantly past her as I head for the bedroom, reading aloud as I go, "Chapter Nine: The Thunderstorm...." She comes dashing along after me, not wanting to miss a word of her story!

During the day, Basbusa takes these books and "reads" them aloud for literally an hour at a stretch, making up endless, convoluted stories as she flips the pages. She occasionally uses the illustrations as inspiration for plot-twists or sub-plots, but really she's off in a world of her own. (An excerpt I overheard today went something like, "'What are you doing with all that blood?", she exclaimed. 'You are making a big mess." In a fit of rage, they galloped off on their horses." (?!?!?!)). Basbusa has been spending lots of time making up stories lately anyway, but she seems to find flipping through the chapter books a big spur to her imagination.

So here's what we've read so far. All these books have very short chapters with plenty of illustrations, and not-too-complicated plots, so they're just about right for Basbusa's current before-bedtime concentration-level.

The biggest hit so far is Milly Molly Mandy Stories. Milly Molly Mandy lives in an English village in about 1920. Each chapter of the book narrates not so much an adventure in her life - because nothing very dramatic happens to her - but rather an incident in her ordinary comings and goings. The charm of the stories lies in the way the author describes these happenings, so that a trip to the village shop to run errands for her family becomes just as momentous an event for the reader as it is to Milly Molly Mandy's own six-year-old eyes. Basbusa was entranced, and we'll definitely be looking for the sequel.

Lotta Makes a Mess, like Milly Molly Mandy, is a book I read during my own childhood. Astrid Lindgren is best known for the Pippi Longstocking stories, but we tried those, and they're definitely a bit beyond Basbusa for the moment. Lotta, on the other hand, was just right. In the middle of a tantrum, Lotta, the youngest of three children in her family, takes a scissors to the sweater her grandmother has knitted for her. Horrified by what she has done, she decides to leave home, and moves into their next-door-neighbor's garden shed. Basbusa could totally sympathize with Lotta's going further than she had meant to, mid-tantrum, and was round-eyed at the idea of her actually leaving home and living by herself - until night-time came, and the garden shed got very quiet and very dark.... It looks like the same book is also sold as Lotta on Troublemaker Street, in case your library has title and not the other.

I knew we just had to get Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf when I saw it recommended online (where?!? I was sure I'd bookmarked it!). Basbusa loves playing run-away-from-the-big-bad-wolf so much that her preschool teachers had to ban the game in her classroom, so I thought this book would be just her thing :) And sure enough, she did enjoy it. Like Milly-Molly-Mandy, each chapter is a stand-alone story, which is ideal for pre-bedtime reading. A few of the stories were a little bit too complicated for Basbusa, and I know some of the jokes went over her head, but most of them were just the right brand of silliness.

My last two suggestions are well-known and well-blogged-about. So I'll just mention that we, too, like everyone else who's just beginning chapter-book read-alouds, liked My Father's Dragon and The Storm. (I was a bit surprised that Basbusa liked The Storm, actually, because it seemed to me that the pace of the action was verrrrrry slow, but that didn't seem to bother her.)

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


  1. "Lotta" sounds like a really fun book. I think I might add that to my list of books I suggest to my daughter to read. She really liked Pippi, so I bet she might like that one too!

  2. I wish our library had the Lotta books, because I would love to read them.

  3. Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf sounds great except we're trying to get rid of that word "stupid". Hmmm, maybe if we only allowed it when talking about the wolf?? ;)

  4. We started reading 'longer' books to my daughter about the age of 3.5 as well. One of our favorite series was the Ursula LeGuin Catwings books. Beautiful illustrations. Also, we loved the Cat Club books by Esther Averil (or maybe that's Averill?), written in the 1940's. Not all of them are great, but most are.

    And, thanks for adding me to your blogroll -- I keep getting visits from your site! :)

    1. Those Catwings books look ideal for us! My daughter loves cats, so I bet she'll love them.

      And thank *you* for having such a great blog - I love your ways of incorporating math seamlessly into a happy childhood!