cover image Sugar


Jewell Parker Rhodes. Little, Brown, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-316-04305-2

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)