Books by Robert Roth

MAMA PROVI AND THE POT OF RICE by Sylvia Rosa-Casanova
Released: May 1, 1997

Rosa-Casanova's first book is a terrific blend of a cumulative tale, a cook's tour of ethnic cuisine—a genuine sense of apartment life, and an unforced display of affection. Mama Provi lives on the ground floor of a city building; her granddaughter Lucy lives on the eighth floor. When Lucy gets the chicken pox, Mama Provi whips up a big batch of arroz con pollo (Mama, in a family of twelve, is hardwired to cook in great quantities) and sets out to scale the apartment stairs. On each floor, as she catches her breath, Mama Provi smells something delicious—fresh bread, frijoles negros, collard greens, an apple pie—and trades a bowl of rice for a portion of each, as well as some salad and tea. By the time she gets to Lucy, a fine feast has been hunted and gathered in a story with elegant forward energy and well-paced repetitions. Roth's watercolor-and-ink illustrations have all the eccentricity the tale deserves, and superbly conjure the special life that goes on in the hallways and stairs of apartment buildings. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1996

The setting sun and raindrops become a jaguar at night, stalking in the jungle, in this story inspired by the markings on a terracotta urn made by the Mayans sometime between the seventh and tenth centuries a.d. Albert (Where Does the Trail Lead?, 1991, etc.) notes in the introduction that the Mayans believed the gods sometimes took the form of animals. In the main text, the jaguar hunts at night, becomes the morning sun, and rises a glorious red. This book will puzzle all but the most precocious of readers; it is hard to figure out what's happening from the text and illustrations. The poetic text sometimes strings a sentence over as many as six pages, pushing readers forward, while dreamy scenes of soft pink, purple, and green watercolors and torn, textured paper draw readers in for careful looking. Yet to pause over a painting is to lose the sense of the text, already complicated by difficult phrases such as ``luring the creature on his journey of return.'' The book is visually interesting but not successful as a story nor poetic meditation. (Picture book. 7-9) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1993

America as it should be, and sometimes is: Pearl remembers Gingko Street's earlier name—Smith Street—and the planting of its gingko trees at her mother's instigation; she's seen waves of new neighbors with names like Lincoln and Jefferson, Pi§a and Diego, Chen and Kee. Now all the grandmas gather under the last old gingko for cards, and for ``Matzoh balls and steamed dumplings. Challah and jalape§os.'' When a man from the electric company comes to cut down the tree, Pearl distracts him with a bounteous lunch. Next day, the ladies playing canasta divert him with family pictures. On the third day, Pearl chains herself to the tree, and—after her neighbors' enthusiastic support becomes a media event and the tree is saved—the street is renamed once more: now it's Pearl Street. The engaging, deftly crafted story is beautifully visualized in Roth's watercolors, where vibrant characters take energetic part in lively street scenes. Pair this happy tale with Polacco's Mrs. Katz and Tush (1992). (Picture book. 4-9) Read full book review >
AND IN THE BEGINNING... by Sheron Williams
Released: March 31, 1992

After Mahtmi created the world—``a mind-provokin' task''— he modeled Kwanza, the first man, from the black earth near Mt. Kilimanjaro—``Intelligent company at last, he thought.'' Kwanza wanders off to explore; when he comes back, he finds that Mahtmi has created more people, from the sands of Normandy, red Georgia clay, and other elements. Seeing his tears of envy, Mahtmi heats his fingers in Old Faithful and curls Kwanza's hair, promising that he and his descendants will always bear this special token of love. Williams writes in a sprightly, natural style, casting this original folktale as one told by her grandmother, Shammama; Roth's strong-featured figures and rich, glowing palette reflect both the story's bright humor and its serious themes. A fine debut for both author and illustrator, well suited for reading alone or aloud. (Folklore/Picture book. 6-9) Read full book review >