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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Although the love comes shining through, the text often confuses in straining for patterned simplicity.


A collection of parental wishes for a child.

It starts out simply enough: two children run pell-mell across an open field, one holding a high-flying kite with the line “I wish you more ups than downs.” But on subsequent pages, some of the analogous concepts are confusing or ambiguous. The line “I wish you more tippy-toes than deep” accompanies a picture of a boy happily swimming in a pool. His feet are visible, but it's not clear whether he's floating in the deep end or standing in the shallow. Then there's a picture of a boy on a beach, his pockets bulging with driftwood and colorful shells, looking frustrated that his pockets won't hold the rest of his beachcombing treasures, which lie tantalizingly before him on the sand. The line reads: “I wish you more treasures than pockets.” Most children will feel the better wish would be that he had just the right amount of pockets for his treasures. Some of the wordplay, such as “more can than knot” and “more pause than fast-forward,” will tickle older readers with their accompanying, comical illustrations. The beautifully simple pictures are a sweet, kid- and parent-appealing blend of comic-strip style and fine art; the cast of children depicted is commendably multiethnic.

Although the love comes shining through, the text often confuses in straining for patterned simplicity. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4521-2699-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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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. 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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