As the dust settled on Port-au-Prince, hope was the last thing anybody could see.
When the earth shook, his whole neighborhood disappeared. Now a boy and his mother are living in the soccer stadium, in a shelter made of tin and bedsheets, with long lines for food and water. But even with so much sorrow all around, he finds a child playing with a soccer ball made of rags. Soon many children are caught up in the magic of the game that transports them out of their bleak surroundings and into a world where anything is possible.
Then the kids are given a truly wonderful gift. A soccer ball might seem simple, but really it's a powerful link between a heartbroken country's past and its hopes for the future. Jesse Joshua Watson has created an inspiring testament to the strength of the Haitian people and the promise of children.
"When the earth shook and took away my neighborhood, I thought I would never be happy again," opens Watson's (I and I Bob Marley) touching story set in postearthquake Haiti. After the narrator and his mother assemble a shelter in a soccer stadium, the boy's spirits soar when he and other children play a spontaneous game of soccer with a ball made of rags. A kind man, who remembers watching Haitian soccer great Manno Sanon score goals in that same stadium, gives them a soccer ball that bears Sanon's autograph. When the children thank him, he replies, "Thank you for reminding me why there is hope for Haiti." In Watson's evocative, sunlit acrylic paintings, optimism radiates from the kids' faces. Though the makeshift village is almost too cheerful, Watson doesn't avoid the harsh realities of the disaster (an early scene shows a crowd jostling for food from U.N. peacekeepers), and his tropical palette underscores the hopeful nature of the book's message. As the children play beneath a brilliant aqua sky, their future feels bright indeed. Ages 5 8.