A beautiful, amusing tribute to family traditions.

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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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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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LAST DAY BLUES

From the Mrs. Hartwell's Classroom Adventures series

One more myth dispelled for all the students who believe that their teachers live in their classrooms. During the last week of school, Mrs. Hartwell and her students reflect on the things they will miss, while also looking forward to the fun that summer will bring. The kids want to cheer up their teacher, whom they imagine will be crying over lesson plans and missing them all summer long. But what gift will cheer her up? Numerous ideas are rejected, until Eddie comes up with the perfect plan. They all cooperate to create a rhyming ode to the school year and their teacher. Love’s renderings of the children are realistic, portraying the diversity of modern-day classrooms, from dress and expression to gender and skin color. She perfectly captures the emotional trauma the students imagine their teachers will go through as they leave for the summer. Her final illustration hysterically shatters that myth, and will have every teacher cheering aloud. What a perfect end to the school year. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-58089-046-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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