cover image Mama Provi and the Pot of Rice

Mama Provi and the Pot of Rice

Sylvia Rosa-Casanova, Casanova S. Rosa. Atheneum Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-31932-7

In her picture book debut, Rosa-Casanova presents a tale of ethnic culinary delights. Mama Provi and her young granddaughter Lucy live in the same apartment building. When Lucy falls ill with the chicken pox, Mama Provi plans to carry a pot of her special arroz con pollo up the eight flights of stairs to her ailing granddaughter. As she stops on each floor, however, Mama Provi smells other wonderful foods and soon is trading her rice for bread, frijoles negros, apple pie, etc. By the time she reaches Lucy's apartment, Mama Provi's bags are laden with a multicultural feast. Rosa-Casanova sprinkles her text with Spanish phrases and presents an accurate portrait of an urban building, although she skates a little close to ethnic stereotyping (an African American woman contributes collard greens; an Asian woman offers tea). The author's upbeat writing style and Mama Provi's energetic personality, however, prevent the story from slipping into patness. Roth (Pearl Moscowitz's Last Stand) strikes an intriguing balance between pale washes and vibrant colors and, in his signature style, he spatters his scenes with flecks of paint that seemingly shower from his subjects, dressed here in spiritedly mismatched prints. He depicts Mama Provi from a variety of uncommon perspectives as she wends her way up staircases and through narrow hallways. Friendly faces and the warm exchanges between characters take center stage in each spread, creating a truly neighborly mood. Ages 5-8. (May)