Kid/YA Books Set in Haiti

As we focus on the disaster in Haiti, I thought I'd compile a few books written for children and teens set in that country. Stories can bring faraway people and places from the screen into our homes and hearts, and keep them there, even through information overload or compassion fatigue. As always, feel free to suggest additions in the comments.

by Youme Landowne
Cinco Puntos Press, 2005
Ages 5 to 10

The true story of Sélavi ("that is life"), a small boy who finds himself homeless on the streets of Haiti. He finds other street children who share their food and a place to sleep. Together they proclaim a message of hope through murals and radio programs.

by Karen Lynn Williams, Catherine Stock (Illustrator)
Clarion, 1995
Ages 4 to 8

After selling oranges in the market, a mother and daughter have enough money to ride the tap-tap, a truck that picks up passengers and lets them off when they bang on the side of the vehicle.

by Karen Williams, Catherine Stock (Illustrator)
HarperCollins, 1998
Ages 5 to 8

Because her family is too poor to be able to buy paints for her, eight-year-old Ti Marie finds her own way to create pictures that make the heart sing.

by Karen Williams, Linda Saport (Illustrator)
Eerdmans, 2005
Ages 4 to 8

After many futile attempts to plant a tree in honor of his new baby sister, a young boy discovers the perfect solution.

by Amy MacDonald, Emily Lisker (Illustrator)
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2002
Ages 4-8

Using his tricky ways, Malese takes advantage of his neighbors, until they catch on, after which he manages to pull an even bigger trick on them.

by Francois Turenne Des Pres
Universe, 1994
Ages 5-10

A collection of folktales featuring magical human and animal characters, from tricksters and buffoons to dancing dolls and talking fish, by the late Haitian artist and writer Turenne Des Pres (1907-1990).

by Denize Lauture, Reynold Ruffins (illustrator)
Simon and Schuster, 1996
Ages 3-8

Six children awaken before dawn each morning to run barefoot to school, a journey that is complemented by the sounds of nature and the bright morning sun, in a rhythmic ABC story that captures the nation's hill and meadow regions.

by Edwidge Danticat
Scholastic, 2005
Ages 9-12

Queen Anacaona was the wife of one of her island's rulers, and a composer of songs and poems, making her popular among her people. Haiti was relatively quiet until the Spanish conquistadors discovered the island and began to settle there in 1492. The Spaniards treated the natives very cruelly, and when the natives revolted, the Spanish governor of Haiti ordered the arrests of several native nobles, including Anacaona, who was eventually captured and executed, to the horror of her people.

by Francis Temple
HarperCollins, 1991

In the hospital after being beaten by Macoutes, seventeen-year-old Djo tells the story of his impoverished life to a young woman who, like him, has been working with the social reformer Father Aristide to fight the repression in Haiti.

by Edwidge Danticat
Scholastic, 2002

It's election time in Haiti, and bombs are going off in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. During a visit from her home in rural Haiti, Celiane Espérance and her mother are nearly killed. Looking at her country with new eyes, Celiane gains a fresh resolve to be reunited with her father in Brooklyn, New York. The harsh winter and concrete landscape of her new home are a shock to Celiane, who witnesses her parents' struggle to earn a living, her brother's uneasy adjustment to American society, and her own encounters with learning difficulties and school violence.

To get involved in a children's book specific way, consider joining our new Ambassdor Katherine Paterson by supporting the International Board of Books for Young People's Children in Crisis Fund, which has a project in Haiti.


Richard Hanks said…
What a great and timely post, Thanks.
Sandy said…
Thanks Mitali...hope to catch you in Boston at some point.
Tricia said…
Sorry for the deletion, but I hate typos!

Well, great minds think alike. I just started a post like this today, and now I don't need to finish it! Here are two additional titles I pulled from my shelf.

I really like the book CIRCLES OF HOPE by Karen Williams.

PLEASE, MALESE!: A TRICKSTER TALE FROM HAITI by Amy MacDonald is great fun and the illustrations are a wonderful homage to Haitian art.
Tricia said…
Sorry to be a pest, but I found one more book. It's also by Karen Williams and is called PAINTED DREAMS.
This is a wonderful list, Mitali, and I also appreciate Tricia's additions. Thanks for doing all you do in the kidlit community...
Mitali Perkins said…
Thank you so much, Tricia. I will add those right now.
Jules at 7-Imp said…
Excellent idea. Thanks, Mitali!
CLM said…
You could include the Campbell family series by Janet Lambert, which begins with The Precious Days. The Campbells live on a boat in Haiti before their parents (in a later book) send them back to the US for school. This series is a bit dated but still very enjoyable.
Jim said…
MissAttitude said…
Thanks for these great suggestions. I'm off to the library right now :)

My heart goes out to the people of Haiti and all Haitian Americans.
Kelly said…
Great list, Mitali. Thanks so much for compiling it. Another picture book is Josias, Hold the Book.
Katia said…
Great idea, Mitali. I find it interesting that the last book was published five years ago. I've been trying to place a picture book manuscript set in Haiti for almost a year now. I received very nice rejections full of pride about the music of the text and what not, but rejections nevertheless. I do wish people would start thinking of Haiti as something else than the "most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere." There is so much more... But then, something horrifying like that happens. Anyway, writing a post about other books, but for adults. Haiti's history and culture are extraordinary and deserve to be better known. Thanks again.
Tasha said…
Great list! Thank you so much for compiling it. I'm forwarding it to all of the local children's librarians.
Elaine Magliaro said…
Great idea, Mitali! Thanks for this list of books.
Kelly said…
What an excellent idea. I hope some teachers (or parents) read some of these books to their children. The children can feel more of a connection to the country in need this way.
Fabulous list!
Tricia said…
Another (picure) book set in Haiti is "MAMA ROCKS, PAPA SINGS".
Debbie Rigaud said…
Merci, Mitali, for compiling this list.
Phyllis said…
Thank you for the list. I've put some of them on hold at the library for my kids who, of course, are very interested in Haiti right now.