Rice & Rocks, by Sandra L. Richards ISBN 9781940014739
Five out of five stars
Giovanni is a boy of Jamaican heritage and they are planning on a Sunday dinner, with his grandmother doing the cooking. When he asks about the menu, Auntie tells him that they are having “rocks and rice,” which is rice and beans. It is a meal that is an old family tradition.
Giovanni is upset because his three friends Emily, Gabby and Aaron are coming over for the dinner. Emily’s family is from Puerto Rico, Gabby’s is from New Orleans and Aaron’s is from Japan. Giovanni thinks that such a meal is demeaning and demands that the menu be changed. Using some magic, Auntie changes his pet bird into a giant and Giovanni and Auntie mount him and they take flight on a voyage of discovery.
Their first destination is Japan, where they learn that rice and beans is called Sekihan and it is a traditional Japanese dish served on special occasions such as holidays. From there they go to Puerto Rico, where rice and beans is known as arroz con gandules and it is also served on special occasions like holidays. Their third and last stop is in New Orleans where Giovanni learns that rice and beans were Louis Armstrong’s favorite food. Once they return to Giovanni’s for dinner, he is proud to tell his friends that they are having the traditional family meal of rice and beans.
This is a nice lesson for children, where they can learn that there are some foods that are eaten in many cultures and on special occasions. What began as a embarrassment turned out to be a source of pride after received Giovanni received a bit of education.