“A stunning and necessary historical picture book.”
— Kirkus Reviews (Starred)


Book Description:

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 Alcántara’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.


Coming to a bookstore near you December 10,2019!

written by Tami Charles

illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara

published by Candlewick Press





A Haitian grandmother and granddaughter share a holiday, a family recipe, and a story of freedom.

It’s New Year’s Day, and Belle and Ti Gran are sharing in the annual tradition of making Freedom Soup. Though Belle jokes that the dish is named because “It’s free,” Ti Gran informs her that it is anything but. What follows is a breathless recounting of family slave history before the Haitian rebellion, with Freedom Soup as the conduit between the historical past and present day. Charles’ prose and Alcántara’s illustrations work perfectly in tandem to re-create a Haiti that is heartbreakingly lush and tropical. The mellow brown of the main characters’ skin contrasts with the darkness of their slave ancestors’, and the vibrant blue waters and endless yellow sugarcane fields are both breathtaking and oppressive when viewed through this historical lens. One particularly affecting double-page spread uses the sweep of the fields to draw readers’ eyes up to the white slave-owning family, to whom the soup is served by a girl young enough to be Belle herself. This tale features characters for whom cooking is an elaborate dance as well as family bonding, and the soup looks so tempting readers will swear they smell it.

A stunning and necessary historical picture book. (Picture book. 5-9)


K-Gr 2–It’s New Year’s Day, and Belle gets to help her grandmother, Ti Gran, make the Freedom Soup because the child “has a heart made for cooking.” As Ti Gran teaches Belle the recipe, she retells the history of the injustices of slavery in Haiti, how the people fought and died in the revolution so Haiti could be free, and how the soup that they are making is a celebration of that freedom. Ti Gran’s storytelling practically bursts with love and pride for the people who came before, and Belle (and readers) is swept up in her joy. The glorious, expressive illustrations will make everyone wish they had a Ti Gran in their lives as she and Belle exuberantly dance, snuggle, chop, and stir their way through the day. Belle says, “One by one, I slide the ingredients into the bubbling liquid. The pumpkiny-garlic smell swirls all around us.” The image of the bubbling pot with a golden steamy aroma weaves the past and the present together as Ti Gran recounts her tale. Finally, as family gathers to celebrate and remember, Belle feels proud of the soup she helped make and connected to her family’s past, present, and future. A recipe for Freedom Soup and an author’s note are included.

VERDICT From Ti Gran ceremoniously adorning Belle with a matching apron to the final view of city windows full of revelers, this book is a start-to-finish celebration of family, history, and culture. A delectable first purchase for libraries.

Reviewed by Anna Haase Krueger, Ramsey County Library, MN , Oct 01, 2019


Outside, it’s a snowy New Year’s Day, but inside, sunbeams shine through windowpanes, and pumpkin, garlic, and herbs synthesize with rhythmic kompa beats as a grandmother passes down a cultural family tradition. This year, it’s Belle’s turn to unwrap the secrets of her Ti Gran’s recipe for Freedom Soup, a time-honored Haitian dish made from epis (seasoning), marinated meats, vegetables, and pumpkin. After the two mash, peel, brown, slide, and dance, Ti Gran “begins to tell a story, the same one she tells every year,” in rhythmic, candid descriptions of Haiti’s days of slavery and then successful revolution (“to take back what’s theirs”). The dynamically detailed mixed-media artwork swirls with motion, feeling, and references to Haitian culture, and Alcántara (The Field) creates memorable characters in Ti Gran and Belle. Complete with a soup recipe and a personal note from Charles (Like Vanessa) honoring her family and Haitian history, this vibrant title is bound to teach, empower, and rumble the bellies of its readers. Ages 5–9.