Welcome to Zanzibar Road
Niki Daly. Clarion Books, $16 (31pp) ISBN 978-0-618-64926-6
When she first sees sunny Zanzibar Road, Mama Jumbo the elephant says, ""What a nice place to live.... I think I'll build a house here and settle down."" With help from many friends and the companionship of a little rooster, big-hearted, amply built Mama Jumbo makes her house a home. Five mini-stories punctuated with Daly's (Jamela's Dress) lively large and small spot illustrations tell how Mama Jumbo's whole neighborhood helps to build her house, and how she forms her ""family"" (Mama Jumbo invites the scrawny rooster to share her home). She croons to Little Chico at night, looks for him when he's lost (he's sitting on her head, it turns out), and celebrates his birthday with the neighbors (""You are the sweetest little chicken in the whole of Africa!""). Daly suffuses the story with the flavor of everyday African life (""Tula Tula"" lullabies, corn barbecues and birthday parties that rock the pawpaw trees), quietly championing the idea that real happiness comes from friends and family, not from wealth or status. The sun-faded colors of Daly's charcoal-and-wash drawings provide a good foil for Mama Jumbo's wildly-patterned dresses and her ""Go-to-town, knock-'em-down, ding-dong hat."" Similarly, the love and warmth of Mama Jumbo's house provide a reassuring background for the hi-jinks on Zanzibar Road. It would be a forbidding family indeed that didn't rejoice in the adventures of this appealing community. Ages 4-8.
Reviewed on: 05/29/2006