Saturday, April 28, 2012

What's Basbusa reading?

The Enormous Crocodile is more of a chapter book than a picture book in length and format, but be warned, it's not actually divided into chapters! So a "just one chapter" promise can get quite long :) Basbusa loved this one, and we've read it cover-to-cover four or five times. I adored Roald Dahl's books when I was little, but I had forgotten that although the plots are easy enough for a little child to understand, the language isn't. Plus, some of the topics that are fun-scary for an older kid would be much-too-real-scary for Basbusa! But I think The Enormous Crocodile is a great introduction to Dahl for little kids. It's about a very big, very mean crocodile with "secret plans and clever tricks" to catch six delicious, juicy little children for his lunch. That might not sound like appropriate content for a three-year-old, but actually the characters are so clearly caricatures that it's funny rather than scary - even Basbusa knows that he's not really going to gollop anyone up at one gulp. There's also quite a bit of name-calling, which I usually avoid; but since the Enormous Crocodile really is planning to eat up yummy little children, I didn't mind reading aloud, "Oh, you horrid greedy grumptious brute!"

I chose The Littlest Wolf because the author, Larry Brimmer, had written some Easy Readers we enjoyed. An unusual way to arrive at a good picture book, I know, but I'm glad we found this one. It's the story of a little wolf, the youngest of his siblings, who is feeling discouraged because he can't roll, run or pounce as well as they can. His father comforts him, and he ends up cheerful again. It's not much of a plot in terms of excitement, but the little wolf's emotions are very true to life, and his father's reassurances soothe him without minimizing his feelings. "'It is true that Ana runs like the wind, and you run like a soft breeze,' he said. 'That is just as it should be. ...  Running like the wind comes later.'" Basbusa seems to really like that message - I've heard her use it herself once or twice when there's something she can't do. Two other things I liked about this story is that it's the Daddy doing the comforting rather than the Mama, which makes a nice change, and that the author uses very pretty language. "It was a perfect summer morning. Big Gray was watching his pups frolic in a poppy-dappled meadow. But not all of them frolicked. One pup, the littlest, peeked out at the others from behind the trunk of a great, gnarled oak." I was a bit disappointed in the illustrations, though - I thought they didn't live up to the pretty descriptions.

Zuzu's Wishing Cake is the story of a little girl who wants to make friends with the little boy who has just moved in next door. In the end she does, and they end up sitting happily side by side and sharing the wishing cake. What makes this book unusually appealing is the very sweet young-child logic that Zuzu uses in trying to get to know him. He's not coming out to play? Hmm. Maybe he can't see what a nice day it is! He must need a telescope. Well, that's no problem; she can make him one! Which she cheerfully does, having unrolled all the paper towels to get at the cardboard tube. Basbusa is still very interested in the nuances of the making-friends process, so the plot was a hit with her, and she also liked that Zuzu narrates her thoughts to the reader with speech bubbles. I liked Zuzu's self-confidence, and how she makes things, paints things, cuts things and glues things just as a routine part of her play, rather than as specially-designed "craft project." I also liked that Zuzu, as shown on the cover here, is not particularly "cute," as illustrated preschoolers go. You don't often see children in books who just look like average kids.

And finally, like last week, I wanted to mention another set of Early Readers that we have enjoyed. The Rookie Readers series seems to come in three levels (A, B and C), and so far Basbusa has enjoyed almost all of them. I don't present them as part of a "reading lesson" or anything like that - I just leave them in a pile with all her other books, and she chooses whatever catches her interest. She has always loved books that are little, though, regardless of the content - her favorite book at moment is a pocket dictionary - so these do at least have that much going for them, right off the bat :) The Level B books (such as Bubble Trouble, shown at right, which is her favorite to date) are just perfect for her reading level. She can read these without any assistance, and although the story-lines are necessarily somewhat curtailed by the limited vocabulary, the excitement of independence more than makes up for it! And even in my own opinion, the plots in the Rookie Reader books are ok. Not amazing, but by the standards of Early Readers, not bad. Pretty good, even. Other books she keeps returning to from this series are All Wrapped Up, Carousel Ride, Lightning Liz, Quite Enough Hot Dogs, and Sara Joins the Circus.

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


  1. You've inspired me to add a bit of Dahl to our repertoire. :-)

    That second book--the wolf one--sounds wonderful! I love the quote you shared--so full of alliteration!

    My youngest daughter is really enjoying the Minnie and Moo (I Can Read series) books right now. It's so much fun when they discover reading on their own, isn't it?

  2. I loved the stage of reading discovery and its progress. We only read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Dahl so far, and Anna quite enjoyed it. I really need to choose a book with short chapters though for my next read aloud :) Thanks for joining WMCIR!