Tag Archives: intergenerational

PPBF – A Song of Frutas

Today is the last day of Hispanic Heritage month. I think you’ll agree that today’s Perfect Picture Book selection is a wonderful way to celebrate!

Title: A Song of Frutas

Written By: Margarita Engle

Illustrated By: Sara Palacios

Publisher/Date: Athenium Books for Young Readers/2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: intergenerational, multicultural, Cuba

Opening:

When we visit Abuelo, I help him sell frutas. We sing the names of each fruit as we walk, our footsteps like drumbeats, our hands like maracas, shaking bright food shapes while we chant with a rhythm:

Mango limón coco melon naranja tononja plátano piña.

Brief Synopsis: A young girl visits her grandfather in Cuba and helps him sell fruit.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about Cuba, the setting of this story;
  • What’s your favorite fruit? Why? Find out more about your favorite fruit, learn how to say the name of that fruit in Spanish or another language, and/or sing a song about your favorite fruit;
  • In Cuba and many other Spanish-speaking regions, people traditionally eat 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and make one wish per month for the coming year. Do you have a tradition in your family to celebrate the new year? Describe in words or pictures things you wish for – either for yourself, your family and friends, or the world;
  • Check out the Curriculum Guide for many more activity ideas.

Why I Like this Book:

With its rhythmic prose and detailed, colorful illustrations, A Song of Frutas is a delightful glimpse into the life of a Cuban fruit vendor and his young Cuban-American granddaughter. For those who have never encountered an open-air market or vendors who stroll the streets with fresh foods and other treats, this is a reminder that food doesn’t need to arrive shrink wrapped on large grocery shelves or bundled into bags on your doorstep. It’s also a reminder of the importance and dignity of the people who provide our nourishment, and the happiness that results when others view these vendors as important members of our community.

Engle’s lyrical text sprinkles in Spanish words seamlessly, much like a family with roots in one culture might continue to use those words or phrases when they move to a new land where another language is spoken. With the English phrase or word often following the Spanish one, or with the Spanish words next to illustrations of the items they identify, both of which happens here, Engle provides a wonderful opportunity for younger children to learn some Spanish.

In the story, the unnamed young narrator is visiting her beloved Abuelo and helping him sell frutas. I love that she finds pleasure in working with him and meeting all of the other vendors and customers. Not surprisingly, her favorite is “la ducera, a woman with the voice of an angel, who croons so sweetly in praise of los caramelos”. The love of chocolate and candies just may be universal!

While much of the story takes place during the visit in Cuba, Engle also reminds readers that travel between Cuba and the United States has not always been possible due to political reasons. A New Year’s Eve “wish is always friendship between countries, so that we can visit mi abuelo more often” and that he, perhaps, can visit the United States, too.

Rather than ending on this more somber note, Engle shows the young narrator and her abuelo exchanging letters, singing “rhymes back and forth…all our hopeful poems flying like songbirds who glide and soar through wild sky” sending hugs to each other until their next meeting.

With its Author’s Note that explains the Spanglish used in the text, to a brief explanation of travel restrictions, and an exploration of the singing vendors of Cuba and Cuban New Year’s eve traditions, A Song of Frutas is a wonderful resource for libraries and classrooms. It’s also a joyful read for families, especially for those that blend multiple cultures.

A Note about Craft:

As is evident from the opening lines, Engle’s use of lyrical language enables the text to sing, much like the narrator and her abluelo sing the fruit names.

A Song of Frutas is a work of fiction, but it’s clear that Engle, who is a Cuban American, clearly understands Cuban society and culture and draws on memories of her visits there to add rich details to this story.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Grandpa Across the Ocean

This Sunday, we celebrate Grandparents Day in the United States. I think today’s Perfect Picture Book is a wonderful way to celebrate the bonds that unite grandparents and grandchildren, wherever they live. I hope you agree!

Title: Grandpa Across the Ocean

Written & Illustrated By: Hyewon Yum

Publisher/Date: Abrams Books for Young Readers/2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: intergenerational, Asian-Americans, Korea, grandparents

Opening:

My Grandpa lives on the other side of the ocean. Where Grandpa lives, it smells strange. It sounds strange.

Brief Synopsis: There might be many differences between a Grandpa and his grandson who speak different languages and live on opposite sides of an ocean, but many things unite them, too.

Links to Resources:

  • Cook a meal with an elderly relative or family friend that includes a favorite dish of theirs and yours;
  • Celebrate Grandparents Day with these fun activities;
  • Learn about South Korea, the setting for this story.

Why I Like this Book:

In Grandpa Across the Ocean, Yum uses kid-relatable examples to show the differences between the Korean grandpa and his visiting American grandson. In addition to the language barrier, readers learn that Grandpa eats yucky foods, watches news programs instead of cartoons, and “naps all the time in his chair”. And the only toy in the house, a ball, ends up crashing into Grandpa’s potted plants, causing a big mess. What child can’t relate to that?

Like the unnamed grandchild, young readers will expect Grandpa to react with sorrow and anger. My guess is that many adults will share that expectation. But instead, this mishap leads to greater understanding between Grandpa and the boy of the similarities that unite them. I love that many of these occur in nature.

Yum’s colorful colored pencil illustrations complement and further the text. I particularly enjoyed a two-page spread featuring Grandpa and the boy, in matching hats at the beach, accompanied by the perceptive text, “We watch the waves come and go. They look just like the waves on the other side of the ocean.” How true! And certainly something we all should remember, whether we’re thinking about barriers separating family members or even separating strangers.  

A Note about Craft:

On the jacket flap, readers learn that Yum was born and raised in South Korea, but now resides in New York. Like the mother in this story, she spends part of each summer in South Korea with her own children so that they can spend time with their grandparents. Clearly she has mined these experiences to craft this story.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – The Old Boat

With a heat wave raising temperatures across much of North America, I think it’s time to head to the water this holiday weekend. So grab an oar or sail and enjoy this week’s Perfect Picture Book!

Title: The Old Boat

Written & Illustrated By: Jarrett Pumphrey & Jerome Pumphrey

Publisher/Date: Norton Young Readers, an imprint of WW Norton and Company/2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes/Topics: boats, nature, intergenerational, fishing, pollution, aging, ecology, home

Opening:

Off a small island, an old boat rode the tide.

Brief Synopsis:  

A young boy and an adult journey in an old boat, viewing both the wonders of the sea and the growing problem of ocean pollution. As the boy becomes an adult, he ventures further, is shipwrecked on a new island, and cleans up the trash on the shore and in the waters.

Links to Resources:

  • Take a ride in a boat – either in the sea or on a river or lake;
  • Have you visited the beach? What did you see? What did you do? Draw a picture of a day you’ve enjoyed at the beach;
  • The Pumphrey brothers used stamps constructed from recycled plastic to illustrate The Old Boat. Try these printmaking ideas;
  • Help clean up the beach and enjoy some beach clean-up games as you do so.

Why I Like this Book:

Using sparse text and full-spread, earth-toned, printed illustrations, the Pumphrey brothers have crafted a multi-layered picture book about a family, the sea, pollution, and finding a home.

As the story begins, a boat that’s already old carries a young boy and an adult, presumably his father or perhaps a grandparent, as they fish and dream. Both characters have dark skin. By midbook, the boy, now an adult, fishes alone until, after a storm, the old boat capsizes and sinks. In his newly adopted home, the young man “turned the tide” on the pollution problem by collecting trash on the beach, in the shallow waters, and even in deeper waters. This charming, quiet picture book has an allegorical feel to it that will appeal, I think, to younger children. The opportunity to discuss the changing relationship between the boy and the aging fellow sailor, the man and his environment, and the growing problem of ocean pollution will appeal to older children and adults.

A Note about Craft:

From the cover illustration, it’s clear that a young boy is at the heart of this quiet picture book. Or is he? For as the first and last lines make clear, it’s the old boat that takes center stage. It’s the boat that ties the first half of the picture book, featuring the young boy and an adult bobbing, fishing, and dreaming on the seas, to the second half, featuring the now-grown man, on a new island, working to clean up the beach and the surrounding waters. Has the boat chosen this place? Have the actions of the boat spurred the man to an epiphany, that he must spearhead the battle against ocean trash? Neither the text nor the illustrations answer these questions, but they do nudge readers to think about our relationships with each other, with our possessions, and with the environment.

And speaking of relationships, note that both brothers wrote and illustrated The Old Boat. Also note the long time span of the book, something that generally is difficult to accomplish in a picture book, even one, like this, quite a few pages longer than the typical picture book.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Ten Beautiful Things

We’re embarking on another intergenerational journey in today’s Perfect Picture Book. And it involves one of my favorite themes – moving. Enjoy!

Title: Ten Beautiful Things

Written By: Molly Beth Griffin

Illustrated By: Maribel Lechuga

Publisher/Date: Charlesbridge/2021

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes/Topics: journey, intergenerational, moving, loss, beauty of nature

Opening:

Lily ran her finger across the Iowa map. An X marked Gram’s house on an empty patch of land. Lily’s new home.

Brief Synopsis: Lily’s Gram invites her to find ten beautiful things along the road as they journey to Lily’s new home.

Links to Resources:

  • Take a walk or a bike or car ride and find ten beautiful things. Why do you think they’re beautiful?
  • Try one or more of these 9 road trip games that don’t involve a smart phone or other screened device;
  • Find more resources in this Activity Kit.

Why I Like this Book:

Ten Beautiful Things is a story about a journey undertaken by Lily and her Gram to Lily’s new home, where she’ll live with her grandmother. The reader learns at the outset that the house sits “on an empty patch of land” (emphasis added). Lily feels hollow inside. It’s clear right at the get-go that Lily isn’t happy about her new home. Who would be? Something clearly is amiss.

But Lily’s wise Gram doesn’t focus on what’s wrong. She doesn’t pass the time with idle chatter or platitudes like, “everything will be alright.” Instead, this wise Gram invites Lily to redirect her attentions, to focus outside herself, to find ten beautiful things along the highways and byways of their journey through Iowa.

Many of these beautiful things involve nature, like a young calf, the rising sun, or a gurgling creek. Others are human-made, like a crumbling barn or windmill blades gleaming in sunshine. What they have in common is that they invite Lily to fill the hollow spaces in herself with the beauty that surrounds her.

I think anyone who has experienced a bad mood, a difficult situation, or even depression can relate to the relief, even if it’s temporary, found when they notice small pleasures: rain tip-tapping on a metal roof, a rainbow, or the swoop of a colorful bird near their window. Ten Beautiful Things is a reminder to kids and adults of all ages to “stop and smell the roses”, that regardless of how bad you may feel, there is beauty in this world.

Lechuga’s sweeping vistas provide the perfect backdrop to this tale. I can imagine children finding other beautiful things within these detailed illustrations, including several different species of birds which fly through the spreads.

Ten Beautiful Things is a lovely book for grandparents to share with their grandchildren, or for classroom discussions of difficult situations, like the loss of a loved one, a change in schools, or a difficult move.

A Note about Craft:

Griffin never states in the text why Lily is moving into Gram’s house. The reader also doesn’t know whether this is a temporary or a permanent situation. The reader knows merely that Lily is sad about the move. I think it’s helpful that Griffin doesn’t specify either the reason for the move or its duration, as I think children who may find themselves in a similar situation may be better able to picture themselves in the story and empathize with Lily.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Kiyoshi’s Walk

For the last Perfect Picture Book posting during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I want to feature a new picture book that is perfect in so many ways, and features an Asian-American pair.

Title: Kiyoshi’s Walk

Written By: Mark Karlins

Illustrated By: Nicole Wong

Publisher/Date: Lee & Low Books/2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: intergenerational, haiku, poetry, nature, the senses, observation, Asian/Americans

Opening:

Kiyoshi watched his grandfather, the wise poet Eto, write a poem with brush and ink. The brush flicked across the page.

            The dripping faucet/Takes me back to my old home./Raindrops on frog pond.

The words made Kiyoshi smile. He wished he could make poems too. “Where do poems come from?” he asked.

Brief Synopsis: To show Kiyoshi where poems come from, his wise grandfather invites him to walk around the neighborhood with him.

Links to Resources:

  • Take a walk. What do you see? Close your eyes. What do you hear or smell? How do the sights, sounds, or smells make you feel? Draw a picture of what you saw and/or write about your walk;
  • Check out the Teacher’s Guide for more ideas.

Why I Like this Book:

An Asian-American grandfather and grandson enjoying time spent together. A stroll through an urban neighborhood, including a large, natural park. Haiku inspired by the journey. Detailed illustrations of the pair’s journey. What’s not to love about Kiyoshi’s Walk?

I can imagine a grandparent and grandchild reading this picture book together, using it as a springboard to their own shared adventures. With Father’s Day next month, it would make a perfect gift for a favorite grandfather.

I also can imagine the fun a teacher or librarian can have with this book, including with older children, as they discuss how one find’s inspiration in everyday occurrences to create poetry or art.

I especially love the answer to his initial question that Kiyoshi shares near the end of the story, that poems come from what we experience outside ourselves, including the sights, sounds, and smells of the environment where we are, and from our hearts. As Eto confirms, “they come from the way the two come together.” Such a beautiful conclusion to this journey of discovery.

A Note about Craft:

In Kiyoshi’s Walk, Karlins combines an intergenerational journey with a blueprint to finding inspiration and writing haiku. He invites readers to slow down, to observe the natural and human-made world around them, and to use these observations as a springboard to creativity. He even includes several haikus as examples for budding poets. These many layers add up to a wonderful new picture book, sure to inspire creativity among its readers.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Birdsong

For my first Perfect Picture Book of the spring, I chose a quiet book filled with friendship and nature. Enjoy!

Title: Birdsong

Written & Illustrated By: Julie Flett

Publisher/Date: Greystone Books/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: moving, #OwnVoices, nature, intergenerational, creativity, friendship

Opening:

Spring

It’s a mucky spring morning as we pack up the last of our belongings and leave our little home in the city by the sea.

I’m going to miss my friends and cousins and aunties and uncles. I’m going to miss my bedroom window and the tree outside.

“Goodbye, tree friend,” I whisper.

Brief Synopsis:

When a lonely young girl moves to a new home, she becomes friends with an elderly neighbor who helps her discover the beauty of her new surroundings.

Links to Resources:

  • Have you moved from one house or neighborhood to another one? Draw a picture of something you miss from your old house or something you like in your new home;
  • In the summer time, Katherena’s new home “hums with peeps and whistles and ribbits and chirps.” What do you hear when you’re outside?
  • Check out the Teachers Guide for more resources.

Why I Like this Book:

Arranged by seasons and incorporating a few Cree words, Birdsong is a beautiful and multi-layered picture book that explores how one young girl adapts to her new home and life through her interactions with a kindly neighbor. As a serial mover whose kids have trouble naming their hometown, I can relate to Katherena’s sadness at leaving family and friends behind and venturing to a new, unfamiliar location.

An art lover, Katherena has no desire to draw in her new home until she meets Agnes, an elderly neighbor who shares her own creative endeavors and the beauty of her garden. Through Agnes, Katherena learns to appreciate the beauty of her new surroundings, and the two share their art and cultures.

I love that Flett highlights the power of intergenerational friendship, especially as both friends learn from each other and benefit from the relationship. I also love how nature, including the birds in the title, provides a bond between these neighbors.

The soft pastel and pencil illustrations provide sweeping views of nature, a lovely invitation to go outside and explore our own bit of the world.

A Note about Craft:

Flett perfectly ties together so many themes in this quietly beautiful picture book: moving, loneliness, creativity, Cree language and culture, friendship, and intergenerational relationships.

She arranges Birdsong by seasons, an apt metaphor, I think, for life as the two main characters, young Katherena and elderly Agnes, are in the different seasons of their lives.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Ariba: An Old Tale About New Shoes

This holiday weekend marks the start of the summer travel season in many places. But for most of us, travels may be out of the question, if not for the entire summer, at least for now. So, I thought I’d share a Perfect Picture Book that includes travel, adventure, and maybe even some ideas to enjoy our time at home.

Title: Ariba: An Old Tale About New Shoes (Based on a story that has traveled around the world)

Written & Illustrated By: Masha Manapov

Publisher/Date: Enchanted Lion Books/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: favorite shoes, storytelling, intergenerational, multicultural

Opening:

From the moment Marcus put on his new shoes, he couldn’t stop moving. He bounced all the way from the living room to the kitchen, circled the house 3 times and the shed 3 times more, climbed the tree in Billy’s backyard, ran up and down the 19 steps to his front door, and accidentally stepped on Carlo’s tail.

Brief Synopsis:

When Marcus tells his grandpa about his new shoes, his grandpa shares an old tale about a pair of shoes, discarded by their owner, that keep returning to him.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you have a favorite possession? Why is it a favorite of yours? Draw a picture of it;
  • In his new shoes, Marcus moves all about his house and yard. Create an obstacle course around your house for your family to enjoy;
  • Marcus’ grandpa tells an old tale about new shoes. Ask an older relative to share a tale with you, either from their own childhood, or a tale they remember hearing when they were young;
  • Ask older relatives to tell you about favorite toys or outfits from when they were young.

Why I Like this Book:

In this quirky tale within a tale, young Marcus’ grandpa transports Marcus, and readers, to a village that seems to be in Africa. There, we meet Ariba, a youth similar in age to Marcus, who, like Marcus, has just been gifted a new pair of shoes. As this tale proceeds, the reader journeys with Ariba, wearing the shoes, of course, to a big city. Here the shoes seem out-of-place. Ariba replaces them, or at least tries to do so. Because every time he tries to donate or discard them, some kindly person remembers how much Ariba valued those shoes and thoughtfully returns them.

I think kids will enjoy guessing how the shoes return each time. I think adults will value the opportunity to discuss how we value our possessions and why we should strive to be our own person, even if our sense of fashion, or our family’s ability to “buy the newest thing”, isn’t the same as everyone else’s.

I won’t spoil the ending, but trust that everything comes together as the story circles back to Marcus and his beloved grandpa.

This is Manapov’s debut as an author/illustrator. The brightly-colored, collaged illustrations lend an air of fantasy to this story-within-a-story.

A Note about Craft:

I mentioned above that this is a story within a story. The tag line notes that it’s “based on a story that has traveled around the world.” I confess that I don’t recognize the folktale, but Ariba’s story certainly feels like one that could have been around, in some form or another, for ages.

Note that for much of the story, Ariba is an adult. So is the storyteller, Marcus’ grandpa. But Ariba and grandpa both exhibit child-like qualities and, perhaps more importantly, the story begins, and ends, with Marcus, a child.

Enchanted Lion Books “is an independent children’s book publisher based in Brooklyn, New York. We publish illustrated books from around the world, convinced by the power of cultural exchange to inspire curiosity, awareness, and wonder in children everywhere. We reach across time and oceans to find new authors and old treasures to share with a new generation of readers.”

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

Perfect Pairing Stays Home

Week six, and counting, at least in my neck of the woods. How’s everyone holding up? Or should I write “holing up”, as we all hole-up in our respective homes? Luckily, before the library closed, I stocked up on quite a few picture books, including the two I’m pairing today about, you guessed it, different houses. Enjoy!

The Full House and the Empty House

Author & Illustrator: LK James

Publisher/Date: Ripple Grove Press/2019

Ages: 4-7

Themes: houses, belongings, differences, inequality, friendship

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The Full House and the Empty House are very good friends— when they dance they admire in each other the qualities they lack within themselves. Even though the houses are different on the inside, it doesn’t reflect how they feel on the outside. The bathroom of the full house
was full of many bathroom-y things. There was a big bathtub with gold clawed feet, a sink shaped like a seashell, a hairbrush and comb made of bone, and cakes of lilac soap. In the bathroom of the empty house was just a toilet and a sink. In the evening when the two houses
grew tired of dancing, they would rest on the hillside and look out at the world together.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews and one by Betsy Bird at School Library Journal.

The One Day House

Author: Julia Durango

Illustrator: Bianca Diaz

Publisher/date: Charlesbridge/2017

Ages: 3-7

Themes: intergenerational, house, beautifying, volunteerism, neighbors

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Wilson dreams of all the ways he can help improve his friend Gigi’s house so that she’ll be warm, comfortable, and happy.
One day, friends and neighbors from all over come to help make Wilson’s plans come true. Everyone volunteers to pitch in to make Gigi’s house safe, clean, and pretty.
Inspired by a friend’s volunteerism, author Julia Durango tells a story of community and togetherness, showing that by helping others we help ourselves. Further information about Labor of Love, United Way, and Habitat for Humanity is included at the end of the book.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because they both explore houses. In The Full House and the Empty House, the houses themselves are the main characters, and, despite their differences, find joy and friendship with each other. By contrast, in The One Day House, young Wilson dreams of how he can fix up his elderly neighbor’s once majestic home and restore its former beauty. Both books provide glimpses into how we inhabit homes, an apt topic as we currently spend so much time in them.

Looking for similar reads? See my recent pairing of Home in the Woods and Home is a Window.

Perfect Pairing – of Traditional Comfort Foods

Looking for a fun family activity to chase away the winter chills? Try cooking together – as shown in today’s Perfect Pairing.

Freedom Soup

Author: Tami Charles

Illustrator: Jacqueline Alcántara

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: intergenerational, cooking, tradition, Haiti

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Join the celebration in the kitchen as a family makes their traditional New Year’s soup — and shares the story of how Haitian independence came to be.

The shake-shake of maracas vibrates down to my toes.
Ti Gran’s feet tap-tap to the rhythm.

Every year, Haitians all over the world ring in the new year by eating a special soup, a tradition dating back to the Haitian Revolution. This year, Ti Gran is teaching Belle how to make the soup — Freedom Soup — just like she was taught when she was a little girl. Together, they dance and clap as they prepare the holiday feast, and Ti Gran tells Belle about the history of the soup, the history of Belle’s family, and the history of Haiti, where Belle’s family is from. In this celebration of cultural traditions passed from one generation to the next, Jacqueline Alcantara’s lush illustrations bring to life both Belle’s story and the story of the Haitian Revolution. Tami Charles’s lyrical text, as accessible as it is sensory, makes for a tale that readers will enjoy to the last drop.

Read my review.

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

Author: Kevin Noble Maillard

Illustrator: Juana Martinez-Neal

Publisher/Date: Roaring Brook Press/2019

Ages: 3-6

Themes: Native Americans, family tradition, cooking, community

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Fry bread is food.
It is warm and delicious, piled high on a plate.

Fry bread is time.
It brings families together for meals and new memories.

Fry bread is nation.
It is shared by many, from coast to coast and beyond.

Fry bread is us.
It is a celebration of old and new, traditional and modern, similarity and difference.

Read a review by Susanna Leonard Hill.

I paired these books because they involve food traditions that tie communities together, be it soup, as in the Haitian Freedom Soup, or the Native American Fry Bread. And a special bonus: both picture books include recipes, perfect for wintry days!

 

 

 

PPBF – Freedom Soup

It’s January, and the wintry winds are whistling outside my window. Although it’s a few weeks since we celebrated the start of the new year, I think today’s Perfect Picture Book, about a special New Year tradition, and a perfect winter food, is a perfect picture book for the holiday, or any day.

Title: Freedom Soup

Written By: Tami Charles

Illustrated By: Jacqueline Alcántara

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: intergenerational, cooking, traditions, Haiti

Opening:

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 learn how.

Brief Synopsis: Belle helps her grandmother cook Freedom Soup for the New Year’s celebration, a tradition from their Haitian culture.

Links to Resources:

  • Cook and enjoy Freedom Soup, using the recipe at the back of the book;
  • Freedom Soup is a special soup prepared in Haiti and by those of Haitian descent. Learn about Haiti;
  • Does your family enjoy preparing and eating a special food? Ask an older relative to explain why the recipe is special and to help prepare it with you.

Why I Like this Book:

Freedom Soup is a joyous celebration of family and cultural traditions. With its bright illustrations and vivid language, I loved experiencing Ti Gran and Belle working together to create Freedom Soup. As snow piles up, “cottony-thick” outside, the pair shimmy and shake to musical beats – even the steam dances in ribbons “up to the ceiling”, and the “pumpkiny-garlic smell swirls all around us.”

As the soup cooks, Ti Gran relates its origins, reminding Belle, and readers, of the importance of freedom and the history of Ti Gran’s native Haiti.

Alcántara’s illustrations transported me to the Caribbean, with Haitian artwork evident in several scenes, and fabrics adding additional pops of color.

A Note about Craft:

In an Author’s Note, Charles reveals that she learned about Freedom Soup from her husband’s late grandmother. I love how Charles has crafted a picture book based on a family member and grounded in Haitian history by imagining Ti Gran teaching a young child how to cook Freedom Soup and why.

By weaving music and dancing through the text, Charles roots the story in the culture of Haiti, and, I think, brings a celebratory feeling to a special activity shared by a grandmother and her granddaughter.

Visit Charles’ website to see more of her books. Visit Alcántara’s website to see more of her work. Alcántara is also the illustrator of The Field (Baptiste Paul, 2018).

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!