21 Aug 2014
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A Thai Lullaby


Even as babies, small children can be exposed to other cultures through stories and tales from other countries. 

These stories offer lessons and insight about worlds with vastly different traditions unique culture.  "Hush," by Minfong Ho, is a Thai lullaby written to be read or sung to babies at bedtime. 

Ho’s inspiration came from the “wonderful bedtime stories (read by her father) of giants and turtles, elephants and warriors which would leave me more wide-eyed than sleepy, when I was a little girl growing up in Thailand."

The story begins at dusk as mama is putting baby to sleep in his blue hammock that hangs between two sturdy poles in their house that rests on raised timbers in the thick jungle of Thailand. 

Suddenly, Mama hears the noise of a mosquito:  “Wee- wee, Wee-wee.”  Mama with a finger to her lips to hush the mosquito says, “Mosquito, mosquito, don’t come weeping.  Can’t you see that Baby’s sleeping?  Mosquito, mosquito, don’t you cry, my baby’s sleeping right nearby.” 

As mothers we are always dilgent to keep our babies sleeping environment uninterrupted so everyone gets a good nights sleep. 

“HUSH!  Who’s that peeping from the ceiling?” 

Now, Mama is working to quiet the “Tuk-Ghaa, Tuk-Ghaa” of the long-tailed lizard, the “meow, meow” of the lean black cat who is creeping under the house, the “Jeed-jeed, Jeed-jeed”, of the fat gray mouse who is squeaking by the rice barn and the “Op-op, Op-op” of the bright green frog who is leaping by the well. 

From the vivid illustrations, we see that mama’s efforts to quiet the animals are in vain as baby is wide awake in the background peeking over the side of his hammock.  

In the next illustration, he is climbing over the side of the hammock just about to reach the floor. 

Mama, however, continues her work, now quieting the muddy fat pig who sniffles, “Uut-uut, Uut-uut from his sty.  “Hush”, says mama as she hears a beeping by the pond.  “Ghap-ghap, Ghap-ghap,” says the glossy white duck. 

With a hand to her forehead from her exasperating efforts to quiet these creatures, she hears an animal above swinging from the trees.  A loose limbed monkey is making a “Jiak-jiak, Jiak-jiak” sound.  Meanwhile, baby is in the background playing. 

An old water buffalo says, “Maaau, Maau” as he sweeps at the hay.  Mama says, “Buffalo, buffalo, don’t come sweeping.  Can’t you see that Baby’s sleeping?  Buffalo, buffalo, don’t you cry, my baby’s sleeping right nearby.” 

As Mama is quieting the old water buffalo, baby is seen climbing back into his blue hammock.  Night has finally fallen and mama then hears a shrieking in the forest; “Hoom-Praaa, Hoom-Praaa.”  A great big elephant must be hushed. 

As the now quiet elephant walks off into the darkness, mama gives out one last hush with a finger to her lips and asks if everyone is asleep. 

In a beautiful illustration that encompasses her home, the Thai countryside and the creatures that live around and with her, mama can see that everyone is finally asleep.  Now she can finally sleep too and so she lays her head on her folded arm that rests on the windowsill. 

Is everyone really asleep?  You’ll have to read "Hush!" to find out!

Hush! is a Caldecott Honor book and terrific read-aloud, especially at bedtime.  It has fun creature sounds to say and and animals to identify.  It’s also like Where’s Waldo? as you watch baby escape his hammock to play and to finally climb back in just in time for his mother to return after hushing all the animals. 

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