cover image Rice Is Life

Rice Is Life

Rita Golden Gelman. Henry Holt & Company, $17.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-5719-5

In verse and in descriptive prose, Gelman (Queen Esther Saves Her People) tours the rice fields, or sawahs, of Bali. On each spread, a poem focuses on the creatures in the sawah (e.g., the eels, the bats that eat the mosquitoes, the mice that nibble at the crops) and a paragraph explains an aspect of the planting, cultivation and harvesting of rice, the staple of the Indonesian diet. The poems are inconsistent. Lyrical passages coexist with sing-song or stale lines (""In the darkness of the sawah/ With a yellow moon above/ Comes a serenade of frogs/ Singing out their songs of love""). The prose, however, is graceful, whether explaining how rice plants sprout or how children roast dragonflies for snacks. The lesson culminates with a farmer and his family offering thanks to Dewi Sri, goddess of rice. Choi's (The Sun Girl and the Moon Boy) brightly bordered panels offer radiant scenes of the sawah. Imaginatively framed, the illustrations glow with saturated colorDemerald green frogs, ruby red dragonflies, deep magenta sunsets, sunlit yellow grainDand make this book inviting as well as educational. Ages 4-9. (May)