“Rice and Rocks,” written by Sandra L. Richards and brought to life with the vivid and lively illustrations from Megan Kayleigh Sullivan is told by a boy named Giovanni whose family comes from Jamaica. He worries to his favorite auntie about his friends coming over and taking part on his family’s Sunday traditional meal of Jamaican stew and Rice and Beans–or as Giovanni calls it, Rice and Rocks. The aunt, Giovanni, and Jasper the magical parrot go on an adventure, exploring the culture and cuisine of his family and the families of his friends.
The eccentric, cool aunt in me loved that it was the aunt that got to go and have adventures with Giovanni. The lover of imagination in me loved that they had these adventures with the help of a magical talking bird. The nanny in me who wants to instill curiosity about other cultures and the things that makes them different in the littles in my life loved the exploration of these four distinct and vividly rendered cultures (Puerto Rico, Japan, Jamaica and New Orleans) in their traditions. The foodie in me loved that it was all tied into a single dish–Rice and Beans–and how important this simple dish is around the world.
It was the writer in me, and more specifically the editor in me that had problems with the story.
The writer in me just wanted this story to be so much… more.
I am going to preference this with the fact that for the last few months I’ve been on full-on edit mode on a number of projects and so I’m overly critical, and also that if the book wasn’t so close to being amazing, I wouldn’t say anything at all about the few tiny problems I had. If it hadn’t been close to perfect, if the problems had been big, I wouldn’t bring them up, I just wouldn’t write a review at all. But, I think the story deserves a good (and honest) review, because I think that this book is important, despite the tiny problems I have. And they are tiny problems.
The story revolves around Giovanni being embarrassed about introducing his friends to the tradition of Rice and Beans, that he worried that his friends would find the tradition strange and the dish cheap. These are all valid concerns that are completely relatable. But, then he admits that when he eats the Rice and Beans he takes out the beans and feds them to the dogs, which completely confuses the situation. It’s one thing to be embarrassed about a sacred family tradition, it’s an entirely different subject that is never addressed and takes away from the story being told that he just doesn’t like the dish. It’s unnecessary.
The other problem is the way that the aunt corrects GIovanni every single time he calls the traditional dish Rice and Rocks. I get it the first time, she’s relaying to the readers that he’s not really talking about rocks–which is pretty evident, but whatever–but she continues to do it each and every time. Repetition is tricky in picture books. It either works really well, adds humor and is necessary or it really doesn’t. This one really doesn’t.
Children don’t like to be corrected constantly and I don’t like to read books to them where a child is being corrected constantly. Especially about something that shouldn’t be corrected. The book, after all, is called “Rice and Rocks” not “Rice and Rocks (What He Really Means is Beans)”.
So, as a nanny would I read it to the children in my charge? Absolutely. I would devise a whole entire lesson plan around it. I would find other books about these places, about their food. We would do crafts and cook and devote weeks around it. Would I read it more than once? Would it be one of those books that I read over and over? Probably not.
- Grade Level: Preschool – 2
- Hardcover: 32 pages
- Price: 17.99 Print: 9.99 on Kindle
- Where to Purchase: On Amazon
I am honored to be included in “Here Wee Read.” A group of book reviewers and bloggers focusing on diverse books, mostly children’s. I love so much the very idea of this group and hope to do them proud. So, this is the place where I have to tell you that in exchange for a free book, I have agreed to give this book an honest review. No other payment was received and I am under no obligation to be positive in this–or any other book I review.
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