Giovanni loves Sundays – he gets to draw, read, play his trumpet, hang out with his pet African Grey parrot Jasper, and best of all, have dinner with friends and family. This Sunday, however, he is distressed to find out from his aunt that his grandmother is making stewed chicken with rice and beans for dinner – or as Giovanni calls them, “rice and rocks.” He’s concerned that his friends, from a diverse range of backgrounds, won’t appreciate this traditional Jamaican dish. But Jasper and Auntie take him on a magic trip, determined to show him that rice and beans are a dish enjoyed all over the world.
RICE AND ROCKS is a visually striking book, full of bright, colorful and charming illustrations. The author and illustrator work together well, and have a joint gift for catching the personality of a person, a place, or a culture in a few well-chosen words and images. Giovanni’s facial expressiveness and lively personality are a delight. Different birds serve as their guides in different places, providing another little educational tidbit without seeming to – it helps that the birds are as beautifully drawn as the people, and as full of life.
The book’s language is simple, affectionate, and approachable, well-targeted to both the capabilities of its young readers and to their need for warmth and connection. The message of the book is one of respect for traditions, love for family and friends, and common bonds between very different groups of people, but it’s presented appealingly, through the eyes and in the voice of the child narrator, without preaching. Little details add richness to the story. For example, the author cleverly makes Giovanni a trumpet player, allowing her to bring in Louis Armstrong as a role model and hero once they get to New Orleans– and to cite his habit of signing letters “Red Beans and Ricely Yours,” which is a nice touch. (It also doesn’t hurt that his statue, in close-up, bears a striking resemblance to Giovanni.)
RICE AND ROCKS is a loving tribute to tradition, family, and cross-cultural connections, which will add warmth, color, and beauty to any young child’s bookshelf.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader