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.