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LAND OF MOUNTAINS
By Jinx Schwartz
Treble Heart Books, 2010 ($13.95)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Many people who get plopped down in an environment that is totally different than they're used to can behave like fish out of water, but ten-year-old Elizabeth Ann (Lizbuthann in Texan) dives right in and embraces the wild, exotic, often primitive land of Haiti in the 1950's with all the passion and wide-eyed wonder of a child, a child who combines part Ransom of Red Chief, Dennis the Menace and Dora the Explorer with a big heart and a keen mind. Her family traveled to Haiti because, as she told her class back in Texas, "My Daddy's a dam builder, he's going to Hell, and he's taking us with him."
She and best friend Dorcas "Doux Doux" Boudreaux roam the jungles, swing like Tarzan through the vines, search for zombies, and learn that life is not always fair, that some people may have little of material value, but are rich in what matters. It's got mystery (are zombies really real? yes and no); it's got thrills (what do you do when you actually catch a zombie?) it's got humor, and sadness, and love, and the triumph of the human spirit in the worst of times. It's also got a cool cover featuring her pet parakeet Pee Wee, who loves to snuggle and can cuss like a sailor, thanks to Uncle Lloyd.
Ms. Schwartz is best known for her entertaining Hetta Coffey series, JUST ADD WATER, JUST ADD SALT, and JUST ADD TROUBLE, all of which center around the boating world she knows well. LAND OF MOUNTAINS is meant for "children and young adults ages 8-108." I am in that age range, and I certainly enjoyed it. It is a great story set in a fascinating place during a critical time in that country's history. The author says the story is very loosely based on her childhood experiences in Haiti. It is a lovely tribute to a country that has had more than its share of troubles, but this book shows that it is also a country of great beauty.
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