Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hush, Baby, Hush!

With a certain other lullaby book all the rage, I thought I'd review one that doesn't require four-letter-words to make baby fall asleep. Hush, Baby, Hush gathers lullabies from all over the world, from Greenland to Turkey to Japan to you name it. After all, wherever there are crying, fussing babies, there are sure to be songs to soothe them.

So many lullabies fill up this book, it's tempting to quote them all. But I'll content myself with sharing my favorites. One from the USA brought back fond memories. My mother sang "All the Pretty Little Horses" to me and my sibs when we were young. Now Mom isn't the greatest singer (sorry, Ma), but for some magical reason that doesn't matter to little ones. The sound of a loved one's voice is reassurance itself.

Another favorite gets right to the point. "Go to Bed Tom" from the UK goes like this:

Go to bed Tom.
Go to bed Tom.
Tired or not, Tom,
Go to bed, Tom!

Kathy Henderson, the author and compiler, shows us the lullabies in their original language along with the English translation. It's instructive to compare the two versions and see how alliteration, repetition, and rhythm are reflected in both. Here's "Sugar, Bread and Butter" from India:

Neeni baba neeni,
Muchan, roti, cheeni,
Muchan, roti hoghia,
Mayrah baba soghia.

You don't need to know Hindi to be soothed by the gentle rhythm of this simple song.

A few lullabies, however, are more likely to keep a child awake than lull him or her to sleep. "Stir, Stir the Chocolate!" from Mexico is as rousing as the caffeine contained in its chocolate. Here is the English version:

Stir, stir the chocolate!
Your nose is like a peanut.
One, two, three, CHO!
One, two, three, CO!
One, two, three, LA!
One, two, three, TE!
Chocolate, chocolate!
Stir, stir the chocolate!
Stir, stir, stir,
Stir, stir the CHOCOLATE!

Try going to sleep after a few rounds of that! The majority of the songs, though, are true lullabies. A lovely lullaby from Spain begins:

Go to sleep my baby,
Go to sleep sunshine,
Go to sleep you piece of this heart of mine.

The illustrations by Pam Smy are true to each song's origins. "Hush Baby Hush," a feisty lullaby from the island of Jamaica, is portrayed in vivid colors that jump off the page, while the soulful "Sleep, Baby, Sleep" from Hungary is rendered in soft shades of blue and pink. As you thumb through the pages, each spread is a surprise, while the art as a whole remains cohesive in style.

"Hush Baby Hush" from Jamaica

"Sleep, Baby, Sleep" from Hungary
With the more than two dozen lullabies that make up this collection, it would be almost impossible not to find one that will send a small child off to slumberland. But if not, there's always that other bestselling lullaby book. Here's hoping you won't ever need it!

Hush, Baby, Hush! Lullabies From Around the World
by Kathy Henderson
illustrations by Pam Smy
Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 40 pages
Pub Date: July 1, 2011

Copy provided by publisher


  1. What a beautiful book. I'll have to get that for my cousin who will be having her first child in a few months.

    I love the chocolate one, but I agree that it would be hard to sleep after that. But, oh what fun!

  2. This looks like a must-buy for me, especially since I see Hungary featured in it! (I live in Budapest) Thanks for posting about it.