Have you ever worried that your family will embarrass you in front of your friends? Most of us have that feeling at one time or another. For Giovanni, it is the fear that his friends won't like 'rice and rocks" when they visit for Sunday dinner. The food is actually rice and beans, which is a traditional Jamaican dish prepared by his grandmother. Giovanni tells his Auntie that he wants his grandmother to cook something else. With the help of his special pet, Jasper, Giovanni and Auntie are able to visit the countries that his friends' families are from and see what some of their traditional dishes are like. Can you guess how the story ends?
Young readers will easily empathize with Giovanni over his concerns. It is hard sometimes to see the value in traditions when they have always been around, and easy to worry that others may not understand or approve. No one wants to be embarrassed in front of their friends. Parents and teachers can use this book to help show that no matter how different our backgrounds, we all have things in common (like rice and beans, for example). The story makes it fun to learn about the culture of others by having Giovanni and Auntie shrink to a tiny size and fly on the back of Jasper the parrot to Puerto Rico, Japan, and New Orleans. They also get to meet the state or national birds of each place they visit.
Once readers have enjoyed the story, they will probably wish that they had a parrot like Jasper to take them exploring. Since pets like that are hard to find, they may wish for Giovanni to be in other books so they can share more of his adventures instead. Recommended for ages 5+.
I received a copy of the book for review purposes.