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Author: Rhodes, Jewell Parker
In 1870, Reconstruction brings big changes to the Louisiana sugar plantation where spunky ten-year-old Sugar has always lived, including her friendship with Billy, the son of her former master, and the arrival of workmen from China.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 2.90
Points: 4.0 Quiz: 158360
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 3-5
Reading Level: 2.40
Points: 9.0 Quiz: 60743
Kirkus Reviews (+) (03/15/13)
School Library Journal (06/01/13)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (07/13)
The Hornbook (00/05/13)
Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 06/01/2013 Gr 5–8—Through the sharp eyes of a 10-year-old, readers experience the hardship of life on a Louisiana sugar plantation after Emancipation. Clever, courageous, and perceptive, Sugar is basically an orphan. Her mother died, and her father was sold five years before the story begins. She lives alone next door to Mister and Missus Beale, who have become her surrogate parents. Sugar wonders why she still can't do what she wants and why she still must work and live under miserable conditions. When she becomes friendly with Billy Wills, the son of the plantation owner, she can't understand why their friendship must be secret. Her feistiness and sense of loyalty shine in the poignant scenes when she insists on being with Billy when he is sick. When Mr. Wills hires Chinese workers to fill the void left by former slaves going north, Sugar is fascinated by their ways and their stories. She loves the Br'er Rabbit trickster tales Mister Beale tells in which Rabbit outsmarts the seemingly more clever hyena. As in Ninth Ward (Little, Brown, 2010), Rhodes has created a remarkable protagonist as she artfully brings American history to life. She shines a light on bigotry and the difficulty former slave owners and former slaves had adjusting to "freedom," and her skillful prose creates vibrant images of the story's milieu. Above all, though, this beautiful novel instantly grips readers' attention and emotions, holding them until the last word.—Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ - Copyright 2013 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Bulletin for the Center... - 07/01/2013 It’s 1870, and although many of Mr. Wills’ slaves left his River Road plantation in Louisiana five years ago, ten-year-old Sugar is stuck working the sugar cane. Parentless, Sugar is semi-independent in her own shack but still under the watchful eyes of the aging former slaves Mr. and Mrs. Beals, who try to keep her under some kind of control. It isn’t easy, since Sugar and young Billy Wills take off on rafting adventures whenever they can slip from the elders’ gaze, and Sugar is determined to make the acquaintance of the crew of Chinese workers Mr. Wills has recruited to replace his aging workforce. Mr. Wills falls out with his long-time overseer on the issue of abusing the new field hands, and the overseer, in turn, regards Wills’ change of heart as a sign of weakness and deterioration of the social order, ultimately venting his rage in a fiery act of revenge. Loss of their livelihood may prove to be a blessing, though, as Sugar finally convinces the Bealses to head north with her in search of their missing children and a possible better life. While the tale of Sugar’s unlikely friendships seem a little too neatly orchestrated, the view of a plantation in the throes of Reconstruction era reorganization is thought provoking. Middle-graders who follow the adventures of American Girls ex-slave Addy Walker will be particularly interested in this tale of a child for whom the promise of freedom takes its own sweet time. EB - Copyright 2013 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
Booklist - 05/15/2013 Ten-year-old Sugar, named after the cane she sharecrops with other freed people, hates her name. It makes her think of her father being sold off into slavery, her mother who died from the hard work in the fields, and her own life of toil. She would rather be playing, but she is the last little one around after all the other young people left the plantation to live in the North. However, her own way of life is threatened once she learns through her verboten friendship with the plantation owner’s son that his father plans to bring in labor from China. Rhodes creates a unique cultural snapshot of Reconstruction Era Louisiana by introducing Chinese immigrants to the mix. Drawing inspiration from Lucy M. Cohen’s Chinese in the Post–Civil War South (1984), Rhodes creates a cross-cultural exchange that includes trickster tales, food appreciation, and good old-fashioned friendship. Sugar is an appealing, adventurous heroine full of curiosity and joy, an element sorely needed in light of the heavy subject. - Copyright 2013 Booklist.