Close-up look at Cambridgeport Children's Center, a.k.a. Tot Lot, a community-based, multicultural day-care center in an ethnically and economically diverse neighborhood of Cambridge, Mass. Shell (Journalism/Boston Univ.) creates Tot Lot's portrait by observing and meticulously recording minute details about children, parents, and teachers. Here, she concentrates on three families: a poor Haitian one whose lives are centered on their commitment as Jehovah's Witnesses; a middle-class couple with two careers, two daughters, and a pretty good sense of how to make the system work; and a single working mother and her son. We learn a great deal about their daily lives--what they eat, what they wear, what they do, what they think about--and how they came to be where they are now. Shell provides the same kind of detail about one longtime teacher at the center, rather less about the school's frazzled director, and considerably less about other teachers, who tend to come and go. A high turnover-rate is but one of Tot Lot's problems, for it has teetered on the edge of financial disaster throughout its existence, and there is no assurance that it will survive. Shell tries to place Tot Lot in perspective by including information on the history of child care, differing philosophical approaches to early childhood education, other social agencies concerned with child welfare, and the impact of legislation and budget cuts. Overly detailed but informative--and disturbing in its implications about the economic viability of the day-care system.