Friday, May 24, 2013

Review: Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Author: Jewell Parker Rhodes
Title: Sugar
Publication: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Little Brown & Co.

Ten-year-old Sugar lives on the River Road sugar plantation along the banks of the Mississippi. Slavery is over, but laboring in the fields all day doesn't make her feel very free. Thankfully, Sugar has a knack for finding her own fun, especially when she joins forces with forbidden friend Billy, the white plantation owner's son.

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.

Sugar is a vibrant, young girl with a tenacious personality living in a community that has been freed from slavery yet still bound by the constraints of slavery and the politics of not mixing with other races. Her mother passed away and her father left but never returned as he promised, so an elderly couple takes responsibility for Sugar. It's so hard to be a child picking sugar and she longs to be truly free. Her dream is to someday travel North like some of the other workers did but her guardians are afraid of the unknown...all they know is sugar.   However, as the owner of the plantation decides to bring in workers from China, they all begin to fear for their livelihood. The Chinese men move much faster than they do and could cause them to lose everything but Sugar loves to build new friendships and tries her best to bring these different cultures together. Fear of the unknown can make people prejudice but the innocence of a child will shed light on the truth and the beauty of stepping out of your comfort zone.

I really liked this story; Sugar is a great character, so full of life and curiosity. What's great about this book is how she is able to interact with each race and they learn through her how to take that step towards a different way of living. The writing is good and the story moves along smoothly. Sugar's voice provides a nice tone to the story and gives a unique perspective into the mindset of former slaves. Overall, a great book about change and friendship that I would recommend to middle graders.


  1. Sounds like a sweet (see what I did there? ;)) story. Thanks for the review!

  2. Sugar sounds like an amazing book for MG readers and it also seems like a book I will enjoy. I love the cover and enjoyed your helpful review. Thanks for sharing. I have added it to my list!


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