14 Inspiring Haitian Children’s Books

Being a Haitian immigrant, married to a Haitian man raising a Haitian multi-lingual daughter her seeing herself in books is important. It is often tough to hear or see any positive stories about Haiti. If it isn’t a disaster hurricane or earthquake. It’s something political or both. But that’s not my Haiti, not the Haiti I know and heard is called “The Pearl of the Antilles”


My Day with the Panye by Tami Charles and Sara Palacios

Purchase from Bookshop.org (supports independent bookstores)

When Fallon’s Manman (mother) was a girl, her own Manman told her “little by little, the bird builds its nest.” Manman wants Fallon to understand that not everything can be learned quickly, but Fallon wants so badly to be able to carry the panye on her head the graceful way that Manman does.

As they walk to the market, Manman teaches Fallon the many things that carrying the panye means, while they take in the bustling sights and sounds of Port-au-Prince. When Manman is finally ready to let her try carrying the panye, will Fallon be up to the task? This book is both a beautiful celebration of Haitian culture and of mother-daughter relationships. (Recommended for ages 4 – 8)


Janjak and Freda Go To The Iron Market by Elizabeth Turnbull, Wally Turnbull, and Mark Jones

The Iron Market is one of the most famous sites in Port-au-Prince, and we get to tag along as cousins Janjak and Freda explore it. After a long and dusty ride on the tap-tap bus, the children’s godmother knows the first stop they need to make is at the tasty fruit fresco station. The children also learn about the power of community when a runaway goat causes disaster in the market. (Bilingual English-Creole, recommended for ages 6 – 10)


Running the Road to ABC by Denizé Lauture and Reynold Ruffins

Both the vibrant artwork and poetic text of this book capture just how excited a group of six Haitian children are to get to school. They leave before dawn, outrunning neighbors on their way to work, and jumping past frogs as well. Just before they head into town, they check whether the son has begun to rise. That’s how they know if they’re still on time or need to speed up even more. (Recommended for ages 4 – 8)


Aunt Luce’s Talking Paintings by Francie Latour and Ken Daley

Each winter, a little girl leaves the United States to go visit her aunt in Haiti. While she waits for those visits, she talks to her aunt’s paintings, and they always talk back. (As I felt the gorgeous illustrations of this book talking to me!)

Aunt Luce worries that her sister is not teaching her niece enough about Haiti, so she gives her lots of lessons on their visits. Luce lets her know that the truth about Haiti “is a hard thing to untangle,” and that to understand it “you have to look at its strong, powerful neighbor…America.” As Luce teaches her about famous Haitian liberators and members of her own family, she tells her that to paint Haiti, one needs “the darkest colors and the brightest ones, and all the colors in between.” (Recommended for ages 6 – 10)


Eight Days: A Story of Haiti by Edwidge Danticat and Alix Delinois

Through moving illustrations and simple text, this book tells the story of a child trapped during the 2010 earthquake. It’s not an easy task to talk to children about this disaster, but Danticat does so with compassion and respect, without making children feel overwhelmed.

Junior describes to reporters how he made it through the eight days he and his best friend Oscar spent underground. Each day they did something different in his imagination. The boys played marbles one day, and Junior played hide and seek with his parents on the second day. Because illustrations are from Oscar’s imagination, they show the beauty of life in Haiti rather than destruction. (Recommended for ages 5 – 8)


Freedom Soup by Tami Charles and Jacqueline Alcántara

Purchase from Bookshop (supports independent bookstores)

As Ti Gran teaches her granddaughter Belle how to make Freedom Soup for New Year’s Day, their celebrations almost seem to leap off the pages of this fantastic book. They dance to Haitian kompa as they cook, surrounded by the smells of pumpkin and garlic.

Ti Gran wants to make sure Belle knows why Haitians eat freedom soup on New Year’s Day. She tells the story of how hard they fought to win their freedom from enslavement. Finally instead of cooking soup for their enslavers on New Year’s Day, they could cook it for themselves! (Recommended for ages 4 – 9)


The Deep Past of Haiti by the Jubilee students 5th and 6th grade students

I am so impressed with the work of 5th and 6th grade students at the Jubilee School who created this history of Haiti. They share their reasons for writing it in the introduction. “We, the young Black representatives protest about how history is taught. We believe that children should know all of their history.” In addition to writing the text, the students also illustrated it.

In researching the United States’ 1915 invasion of Haiti, the students realized they also needed to go back much further. The first half  of the book shares how the U.S. military forced Haitian leaders to sign a treaty allowing the U.S. to declare martial law in 1915. The second half goes back to the first invasion of Haiti by Christopher Columbus, the history of enslavement in Haiti, and the only successful slave revolt in the western hemisphere. (Recommended for ages 10+)


Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat and Leslie Staub

This is actually a story of a Haitian American family’s struggle with the U.S. immigration system, rather than a book that takes place in Haiti. When Saya’s mother is taken to immigration detention, Saya misses her voice so much that she listens to the answering machine message she leaves in Creole.

Once they’re able to have visits, Mama sings her the song of the wosiyol, a Haitian nightingale. When Saya becomes distraught after one of the visits, Mama mails Papa a tape of a bedtime story she’s told for Saya. As Saya and her Papa fight for justice for Mama, Saya is comforted by the weekly tapes that Mama sends. (Recommended for ages 4 – 9)


Toussaint L’Ouverture: The Fight for Haiti’s Freedom by Walter Dean Myers and Jacob Lawrence

Groundbreaking artist Jacob Lawrence’s career was launched by this series of paintings of Haitian liberator Toussaint L’Ouverture. To accompany the paintings, Walter Dean Myers has written a detailed but accessible history of Haitians’ overthrow of their French colonizers that’s suited for ages 10+. Few Americans are aware of just how much L’Ouverture’s success in overthrowing slavery frightened the United States, but Myers make sure to mention this. (Recommended for ages 10+)


By Karen Lynn Williams, Illustrated by Catherine Stock

If you’re looking for a book that has beautiful illustrations and a heartwarming story, look no further!  The beautiful watercolor illustrations bring to life the story of Sasifi, a young girl who desperately wants to ride a tap-tap, a brightly colored truck that carries passengers and their belongings in Haiti.



I Dream Too/Mwen Reve
By Maude Heurtelou

I Dream Too is also bilingual (English/Creole)  and tells a story about a young girl nurturing her dream.  It is part of the Good Citizen Collection for Pre-K students


Selavi, That is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope
By Youme Landowne

Selavi, That is Life is the true story of Selavi, a homeless child in Haiti who is befriended by other street children. This story of hope is told not only through beautiful illustrations, but also supplemented with photographs of children working and playing together.


Jenika Sings for Freedom
By The Restavek Freedom Writers, Illustrated by Emily Iddings

This list wouldn’t be complete without the two wonderful books written by the young women in our Transitional Home!  Creating these books gave the girls the opportunity to reshape the stories of their own lives with power and possibility and hope.  Jenika Sings for Freedom aims to raise awareness about the inhumanity and injustice of child slavery in Haiti through the story of one girl who never gave up hope.


Sa Fè Lontan m ap tann ou by Regine Theodat

Based on an iconic Caribbean folktale, this beautiful book explores the timeless storytelling tradition of how a young child’s upside-down play in triangle form summons one’s unborn sibling to this realm.   Magical, mesmerizing, and multicultural, this book celebrates family, culture, and fantastical fun! Meet Zafèt, a brilliant, inquisitive, and brave girl who befriends a mysterious dream-world friend that seems familiar to her.   Follow along with Zafèt as she discovers more about this special dream-world friend. Her quest offers a sweet story to explain and honour Caribbean heritage.

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