The Bitter Side of Sweet

Tara Sullivan. Putnam, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-399-17307-3
Sullivan (Golden Boy) shines a harsh light on the horrors of modern-day slavery through 15-year old Amadou’s struggles to care for his eight-year old brother, Seydou, while farmers force them to harvest cacao on an Ivory Coast plantation. Amadou’s understated narration accentuates his desperation: “I don’t count how many times I’ve been hit for being under quota. I don’t count how many days it’s been since I’ve given up hope of going home.” Tricked two years earlier into believing they had been offered seasonal work, the boys are locked in a shed at night, beaten for the smallest infraction, and punished with food deprivation. Escape attempts by a newly arrived 13-year-old girl, Khadija, inadvertently lead to Seydou suffering grievous injury. Terrified, but recognizing that Seydou will die if they remain enslaved, Amadou and Khadija make one more attempt at freedom. In a poignant scene later on, Amadou drinks hot chocolate, but gags when he realizes its source. His plea to Khadija’s journalist mother to write their story, or “we won’t have anyone to speak for us,” underscores the disturbing realities underlying this heart-wrenching survival tale. Ages 12–up. Agent: Caryn Wiseman, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/30/2015
Release date: 02/23/2016
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-14-751509-4
MP3 CD - 978-1-5159-5113-1
Compact Disc - 978-1-5159-0113-6
Prebound-Glued - 336 pages - 978-0-606-39795-7
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