A beautiful, amusing tribute to family traditions.

Rice & Rocks

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.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-940014-73-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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