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Sugar has always yearned to learn more about the world, and she sees her chance when Chinese workers are brought in to help harvest the cane. The older River Road folks feel threatened, but Sugar is fascinated. As she befriends young Beau and elder Master Liu, they introduce her to the traditions of their culture, and she, in turn, shares the ways of plantation life. Sugar soon realizes that she must be the one to bridge the cultural gap and bring the community together. Here is a story of unlikely friendships and how they can change our lives forever.
From Jewell Parker Rhodes, the author of Ninth Ward (a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and a Today show Al's Book Club for Kids pick), here's another tale of a strong, spirited young girl who rises beyond her circumstances and inspires others to work toward a brighter future.
- ISBN-13: 9780316043052
- ISBN-10: 0316043052
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publish Date: May 2013
- Page Count: 272
- Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Books > Juvenile Fiction > Historical - United States - 19th Century
Books > Juvenile Fiction > People & Places - United States - African-American
Books > Juvenile Fiction > People & Places - United States - Asian American
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-03-25
- Reviewer: Staff
In 1870 Louisiana, five years after the Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery, Sugar is still bound to the crop whose name she shares: “I’m ten now. I’m not a slave anymore. I’m free. Except from sugar.” Sugar and her mother had been waiting for the return of her father, who was sold shortly after Sugar was born; when Sugar’s mother died, her daughter was left with nowhere to go. Sugar’s caring guardians and her occasional adventures in the woods are bright spots in her life, but she feels left behind as friends head north. When “Chinamen” are hired to work on the plantation, Sugar’s community feels threatened; however, Sugar’s intuition, curiosity, and spirit move her to befriend the perceived enemy and bring everyone together. Rhodes (Ninth Ward) paints a realistic portrait of the hard realities of Sugar’s life, while also incorporating Br’er Rabbit stories and Chinese folktales. Sugar’s clipped narration is personable and engaging, strongly evoking the novel’s historical setting and myriad racial tensions, making them accessible and meaningful to beginning readers. Ages 8–12. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (May)
Breaking the rules in a forgotten history
Having freedom in a legal sense doesn’t always mean you’re free. That statement was especially true for Southern slaves freed as a result of the Civil War. Although these men, women and children couldn’t be forced to work any longer, that didn’t keep plantation owners from paying wages, and then charging rent, food costs and other fees that kept the workers forever indebted. This is the reality of life for the characters in Sugar, the powerful new novel by Coretta Scott King Honor Book recipient Jewell Parker Rhodes. This group of men and women, including a 10-year-old orphan named Sugar, live and work on Louisiana’s River Road plantation, harvesting sugar cane and doing what they must to survive.
Sugar isn’t content with this life, however. She longs to play with other children, meet new people and not work from sunup to sundown. Sugar doesn’t always follow the rules, either. She befriends the white plantation owner’s son, Billy, and escapes on adventures with him that break every rule and boundary set for them both. It is not until the plantation owner brings in Chinese laborers, though, that Sugar’s indomitable spirit and unique outlook on life are most appreciated.
This forced immigration of Chinese workers to Southern plantations is a little-known fact in American history. Rhodes takes this glossed-over event and adds human faces to it. Sugar, Mister Wills, Beau and Master Liu are just a few of the many characters young readers will come to know and better understand. It is Sugar’s story, however, as a strong-willed, independent and tolerant child that will have the greatest impact. With compelling characters and suspenseful storytelling, this is well-crafted historical fiction that will appeal to anyone who loves a good story.