K-Gr 2An exuberant story in rhyme that captures the vibrant spiritual nuances that imbue the lives of the Haitian people. Mama and Papa live all alone until a baby comes along to share in their home. Little by little, their humble house becomes the daytime haven for many children whose parents work. The youngsters spend their time swinging on tires, playing near the sea, lying in hammocks, and observing nature's tiny creatures. There are trips to the market and lots of hugs, dancing, singing, and afternoon naps. Realistic scenes show the chopping of sweet sugarcane with sharp machetes; families without enough to eat; thatched houses; outdoor wash tubs; and goats, pigs, and chickens in the yard. The cumulative number rhyme and a repeated chorus, ``Put the baby in the cradle now/and wrap it all up/Mama Rocks. ZI-ZAH ZI-ZAH/Baby weeps. WAH WAH WAH/Papa sings. SHU-LA SHU-LA/Baby sleeps. ZEH ZEH ZEH'' is authenticated by the integration of Creole words and expressions. Impressionistic paintings in rich colors reflect a warm sense of place and a nurturing environment. A glossary with a pronunciation key and notes on Haiti are included.Barbara Osborne Williams, Queens Borough Public Library, Jamaica, NY
It's hard to knock a book that was inspired by a missionary couple who've adopted 28 Haitian orphans. However, the rhythmic text incorporating many "patois" words and phrases is not up to the work of these kind souls or even to Smith's pretty pictures. Although the narrative presents the bleaker aspects of Haitian life ("Around us live families without enough to eat. Friend Clive . . . goes beggin' in the street"), the bouncy, cumulative refrain almost makes poverty appealing. ("Oh-oh! A rat-tat on the door. Oui! Oui! There is one more than before"). This sunny vision is reinforced in the vibrantly colored chalk drawings that feature strongly delineated figures set against landscapes that capture the natural beauty of the region. Although the book is flawed, communities with Haitian children may want it. A gossary, notes, and a pronunciation guide are provided, and an afterword describes life for Haitians, both in their homeland and in the U.S.