Freedom Soup – Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

I feel compelled to add my voice to those who are lauding FREEDOM SOUP!

As you can see from the cover, it’s not going to be your everyday dull, boring history lesson. This story will be a shared cooking and dancing celebratory experience, one where we learn how the slaves of Haiti overthrew their oppressors and gained their freedom.

In the first spread, the child narrator announces:

“Today is New Year’s Day. This year, I get to help make Freedom Soup. Ti Gran says I’ve got a heart made for cooking, and it’s time I learned how.”

In the next spread, we see that this learning is going to include LOTS of movement. And so much fun!

Text ⓒTami Charles     Illustrations ⓒJacqueline Alcántara

I want to dance. Just look at those feet, that salt shaking, apron swinging as

“Haitian kompa pours through the speakers. The shake-shake of maracas vibrates down to my toes….”

We follow along as Ti Gran instructs her granddaughter,

“First, Belle, is the epis.”

They use pilons (mortar & pestles) to mash garlic and herbs before spreading it on the meat to rest. The meat will be the only thing resting for the time being.

They parboil pumpkin before peeling off its skin.

“The skin melts off like butter.” 

They peel and chop and add to the pot as “the garlicky smell swirls all around us.”

And as they cook, Ti Gran shares the story of how their ancestors became free.

Text ⓒTami Charles     Illustrations ⓒJacqueline Alcántara

When this pair is done dancing and cooking, they take a moment to rest in the living room where they talk about how the recipe and its preparation has been passed down for generations, and the granddaughter begins to understand that she is part of this natural progression. Yes, she will share the recipe and story of her ancestors with her children and they will share it with all the children who will come after.

And when cousins, uncles, aunts arrive and dance and eat and celebrate, they do so

“until the last drop of soup is gone,



This is a glorious book to share with children, for reading and learning about Haitian culture and for making Freedom Soup. The author includes a kid-friendly recipe in the back matter along with an author’s note about her husband’s late grandmother, Ti Gran, the woman who is joyfully immortalized in these pages.


Make your own Freedom Soup, using the book’s recipe.

Learn more about Haitian culture

Check out these other children’s books about Haiti

Make your own maracas

Enjoy this clip from the Haitian culture site listed above

Title: Freedom Soup

Author: Tami Charles

Illustrator: Jacqueline Alcántara

Publisher: Candlewick, 2019

Ages: Pre-K-3rd 

Themes: Haitian culture and history, cooking, cross-generational story

For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website. 


8 thoughts on “Freedom Soup – Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

  1. Sarah Tobias says:

    Love your review. I need to get the book and read it. I got to browse the pages but not yet dived deeply into the whole story. I did have the opportunity to see and hear Jackie’s presentation on how she created the art. If she is ever in your area, I hope you can hear it too. She really showed how she created her half of the book. It is amazing to me how much heart and soul goes into making picture book stories. Even as a writer, who puts her heart and soul into writing, it amazes me and helps me know that I am not alone.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Oh, I would love to hear her talk! She illustrated Baptiste Paul’s THE FIELD (loved it!) and is working on another new book of his. The relationship between Ti Gran and Belle makes me smile. Such love and joy! And those illustrations go a long way toward creating/enhancing the texture of the book. I just listened to MT Anderson on an SCBWI webinar where he talked about texture, and he pointed out that getting the “right” illustrator for a picture book has a big impact on its success. I agree. But I would add that it’s the author’s responsibility to create a story that provides the illustrator with strong texture-related clues through word choice, rhythm, and voice. When the two are married, they are greater than the sum of their parts.

  2. Patricia Tilton says:

    I loved this book! But, I really enjoyed how you used the illustrations to show the lively action between Belle and Ti Gra, and convey the story — very different. I think your review is my favorite! Enjoyed the other comments above!

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