In this illustrated children’s book, a young boy learns to be proud of his family’s Jamaican food traditions.
Giovanni loves Sundays, when he plays his trumpet, reads comics, draws pictures of frogs, and spends time with Jasper, his African grey parrot. But what he loves most is when his whole family comes to visit; he’s especially fond of Auntie, who gave him Jasper. Today, Giovanni’s friends Emily, Aaron, and Gabby are planning to come by, too, but he’s worried that they won’t like his family’s traditional Sunday dinner of Jamaican stewed chicken with rice and beans, which isn’t his favorite, either; he calls it “rice and rocks.” He tells Auntie, “We have to break the tradition today!” But she and Jasper have another plan: they magically take him for a trip around the world to visit the places where Giovanni’s friends’ families come from—Japan, Puerto Rico, and New Orleans. At each stop, he learns that variations on rice and beans are served for celebrations and Sunday dinners. The kicker is when Giovanni discovers that Louis Armstrong, his hero, loved rice and beans so much that he signed his letters “Red Beans and Ricely Yours.” Later, Giovanni tells his friends proudly that “Rice and beans are my grandma’s specialty….On Sundays, it’s a tradition in our family to eat it.” In her debut children’s book, author Richards shows a good sense of the rhythms and repetitions that give pleasing structure to a children’s book; for example, in each visit abroad, the country’s national bird is there to greet Giovanni and his cohorts. Richards’ characters have plenty of appeal; Auntie, for example, is an ideal mentor who teaches the lesson about appreciation with fun and humor, never by scolding, and Giovanni is artistic, musical, and loves animals. Sullivan’s delightful illustrations also contribute to the story, as they are well-composed, full of atmosphere and detail, and attractively hued.
A beautiful, amusing tribute to family traditions.