(Image from Barnes & Noble)
Although no one is allowed to own Sugar anymore, she still feels like a slave. Spending long, grueling days cutting sugarcane under the sweltering sun doesn't seem very free to her. She longs for a life beyond River Road Plantation, where she can do as she pleases without the master or the overseer or even her adoptive mama, Missus Beale, looking over her shoulder. It's only when Sugar's traipsing along the banks of the Mississippi River, exploring and make-believing with the master's son, that she really feels free. Even then, she can't let her guard down—if anyone catches her and Billy together, they'll both be beaten.
When Billy tells Sugar a secret—his father is hiring Chinese workers to labor alongside the former slaves in the cane field—she feels a tingle of excitement. She's the only one, though. The rest of the plantation workers fear for their meager wages. They look at their new co-workers with suspicion and doubt. Sugar can't understand the tension as she finds the Chinese men fascinating. There's one thing she does understand—she's the only one who can bring all the workers together. But how? And what will it cost her to take such a risk? Her reckless bravery always leads to trouble—will this time be any different?
Sugar, like Jewell Parker Rhodes' first middle grade book, Ninth Ward, offers readers a strong, capable heroine who uses her wits to rise above a difficult situation. Although she possesses courage and wisdom beyond her years, Sugar's childlike enthusiasm and imagination guarantee she remains both believable and relatable. Young readers will relish her mischievous streak, while applauding her efforts to promote understanding and peace among two very different groups of people. Hers is a quiet, enjoyable story that reminds us of the humanity we all share, regardless of our race or culture.
(Readalikes: Reminds me of I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly [Dear America: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl] by Joyce Hansen)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for violence and scary situations
To the FTC, with love: Another library