Award-Winning Books Early Readers Features Genre It's Monday What Are You Reading Lifespan of a Reader Middle Grade Picture Books Reading Themes Voices From The Fringe: Social Justice

[Monday Reading] Reclaiming One’s Freedom Through Hearty Meals in Diverse Picturebooks

Have some "Freedom Soup" and "Fry Bread."


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community. 

Diversity in children’s books is gradually going beyond food, fashion, festivals, famous people, and flags. Yet on occasion, there are powerful narratives such as the ones featured here that depict quite powerfully the reclamation of one’s very identity and existence through hearty meals.

Freedom Soup [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Tami Charles Illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara
Published by Candlewick Press (2019)
ISBN: 0763689777 (ISBN13: 9780763689773) Literary Award: Américas Award Commended Title (2020) Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

Rooted in the Haitian Revolution, this picturebook moves in swift rhythm – just look at the book cover. It is an invitation to dance, movement, swag. Ti Gran is preparing freedom soup for her huge family and young Belle puts on her apron, intending to learn and help with the shaking, slicing, and dicing.

When Belle asked Ti Gran why it is called “Freedom Soup,” Ti Gran provided her a condensed history lesson. This entire narrative rings true for me, because I remember most intimate conversations in my family taking place over meals: either while preparing them or consuming them. Ti Gran also stated something wise that remained with me:

“Oh, Belle. Nothing in this world is free, not even freedom.”

Freedom Soup apparently is something that slaves were asked to prepare but were never allowed to eat themselves, as the image above says. I liked how Belle’s emotions were depicted here, but with just a single line that conveys outrage, shame, embarrassment, helplessness, without needing to articulate all these.

Ti Gran’s home is beautiful (see the exquisite details in the image above), and the physical affection between grandmother and child is a joy to behold. The book also ends with a recipe on how to prepare Freedom Soup. I also appreciated the Author’s Note that elaborated further on the practice of slavery in Haiti, and her connection with this meal through her husband’s late grandmother, Ti Gran.

If you still have not had a taste of Freedom Soup, you are missing out on a great deal.

Fry Bread [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written By Kevin Noble Maillard Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
Published by Roaring Brook Press (2019)
ISBN: 1626727465 (ISBN13: 9781626727465). Literary Awards: Charlotte Zolotow Award Nominee for Honor Book (2020), Sibert Medal (2020), American Indian Youth Literature Award Nominee (2020), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Picture Books (2019). Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

This is a powerful and well-researched narrative of family, food, and all the flavours of the universe coming together in solidarity and celebration of identity.

Kevin Noble Maillard has taken from his own personal family history and has interwoven it to Native American history and invited readers in to this family’s kitchen, providing one and all a place at the table.

There is nothing in this book that is not purposive: each phrase is strategically positioned building up to a narrative crescendo, every art including the mother and father’s tats have a symbolic significance. I have featured Juana Martinez-Neal’s picturebooks and have always considered myself a huge fan, but I honestly feel that she has reached new heights of artistry in this book. While I was deeply moved by the distilled phrases in each page, the very detailed Afterword written by Maillard demonstrated how much thoughtfulness and careful attention have gone into the making of this work of art.

The indomitable strength and capacity to thrive have all been depicted wonderfully in this narrative that also happens to be a visual feast for the senses. Treat yourself to some fry bread, if you can. The recipe is included at the end of the book for readers to enjoy.

#ReadIntl2020 Update: Kevin Noble Maillard (Fry Bread) is a member of the Seminole Nation, Mekusukey band.

Juana Martinez Neal (Fry Bread) is originally from Peru but now based in Arizona

Both author and illustrator of Freedom Soup are POC.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

5 comments on “[Monday Reading] Reclaiming One’s Freedom Through Hearty Meals in Diverse Picturebooks

  1. Rebecca Herzog

    These both look wonderful. I checked and my library has both! Can’t wait to check them out.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As soon as I finished reading about freedom soup, I had to go off looking for a recipe! Guess what we are having for dinner one night this week?
    I have read other books about Fry Bread, but not this one. I’m off to see if my library has this.
    Hurrah it has both of these!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Completely Full Bookshelf

    Both of these books look like wonderful, beautiful picks! I love all of the diversity that you have been featuring on your posts. The quote from Freedom Soup is powerful as well! Thanks for the wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fry Bread was so enjoyable, but I haven’t yet read Freedom Soup. It doesn’t look like we have a local copy in any of my libraries, so I’ll have to put in a request for it. Thanks for sharing, Myra!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: [My 2020 in Books] Favourite Books Read in 2020 – Gathering Books

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