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The Bitter Side of Sweet
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The Bitter Side of Sweet
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For fans of Linda Sue Park and A Long Way Gone, two young boys must escape a life of slavery in modern-day Ivory CoastFifteen-year-old Amadou counts the things that matter. For two years what has...
For fans of Linda Sue Park and A Long Way Gone, two young boys must escape a life of slavery in modern-day Ivory CoastFifteen-year-old Amadou counts the things that matter. For two years what has...
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  • For fans of Linda Sue Park and A Long Way Gone, two young boys must escape a life of slavery in modern-day Ivory Coast

    Fifteen-year-old Amadou counts the things that matter. For two years what has mattered are the number of cacao pods he and his younger brother, Seydou, can chop down in a day. This number is very important. The higher the number the safer they are because the bosses won't beat them. The higher the number the closer they are to paying off their debt and returning home to Moke and Auntie. Maybe. The problem is Amadou doesn't know how much he and Seydou owe, and the bosses won't tell him. The boys only wanted to make some money during the dry season to help their impoverished family. Instead they were tricked into forced labor on a plantation in the Ivory Coast; they spend day after day living on little food and harvesting beans in the hot sun—dangerous, backbreaking work. With no hope of escape, all they can do is try their best to stay alive—until Khadija comes into their lives.
    She's the first girl who's ever come to camp, and she's a wild thing. She fights bravely every day, attempting escape again and again, reminding Amadou what it means to be free. But finally, the bosses break her, and what happens next to the brother he has always tried to protect almost breaks Amadou. The old impulse to run is suddenly awakened. The three band together as family and try just once more to escape.
    Tara Sullivan, the award-winning author of the astounding Golden Boy, delivers another powerful, riveting, and moving tale of children fighting to make a difference and be counted. Inspired by true-to-life events happening right now, The Bitter Side of Sweet is an exquisitely written tour de force not to be missed.

Excerpts-

  • From the book ***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***

    Copyright © 2016 Tara Sullivan

    1.

    I count the things that matter.

    Chop, twist, toss, check. Chop, twist, toss, check. Two more pods make twenty-five total.

    Neither Seydou nor I have eaten anything since breakfast, but Moussa is working too close for us to be able to sneak one of the cacao pods out of the sack. I take a moment to wipe the sweat off my forehead. You'd think it would be cooler up here, but some days there isn't a breeze even halfway up a tree.

    I scrub at my face with my wrist and look out over our work area. Moussa is collecting pods off to our right, though he'll leave in a second to make another sweep to be sure everyone's still here. The other boys on crew with us today are just smudges of noise through the green. Directly below me, Seydou scrambles around as quickly as he can, picking up the pods I've cut and putting them in our sacks. They're lying worryingly flat right now.

    Only twenty-five pods. Our sacks need to be full, at least forty or forty-five each, so I can get Seydou out of a beating. Really full if I want to get out of one too. The bosses usually look the other way when I give Seydou lighter work since he's only eight, but that kindness only goes so far. We still need to bring in about the same as the other boys.

    I slide to the ground and push the sack onto my shoulder. The bunched bag digs in, pressing through the bruises there, but I don't let Seydou carry things that are too heavy if I can avoid it. Instead, he carries the machetes.

    "Moussa! We're finding new trees!" I call out.

    "Awó! " he shouts, looking to see which direction we're going. In a few minutes he'll wander over to check on us. I try not to let it bother me.

    Seydou and I walk past tree after tree. They taunt us with their clustered pods, all the wrong size, none of them ripe enough to cut. I don't count how many trees we pass because I don't count the things that don't matter.

    I don't count unripe pods. 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.

    In the next grove I heave the sack onto the ground and shake out my arms. Seydou stumbles a little as he shuffles up behind me. His thin shoulders slump. I can see how tired he is and it makes me mad, because I can't do anything about it. More than seventy pods to go and it's already late morning.

    "Give me my machete."

    He scowls at my tone, his thin eyebrows scrunching down in his round face, making him look like a cranky old man, but he hands it to me even so. Then he heads straight to the nearest tree with low pods and gets to work, a frown line still between his eyes.

    I clench my machete between my teeth and pull myself up a smooth trunk with my bare feet and hands, counting the shiny pods that are the right size for cutting. When I get high enough to reach some purple-red ones, I knot my legs around the trunk, grab one in my left hand, and hack at the tough stem that holds it to the tree.

    One strong chop and with a twist it comes off, surprisingly light in my hand for its size. Twenty-six.

    I turn to toss it to the ground and check on Seydou. I notice that he's still trying to saw through the stem of his first pod. His skinny little body is sagging from exhaustion and his blade keeps slipping. I want to scream at him to be more careful. In- stead, I slip down the tree and don't add the pod to my sack.

    "Come on," I say, walking to him. "Let's take a quick break before Moussa gets too close again. Then we'll get...

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from November 30, 2015
    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.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from November 15, 2015
    Forced to labor on an Ivory Coast cacao plantation, Amadou risks everything for freedom. Fifteen-year-old Amadou left his family farm with his little brother, Seydou, searching for a season of work to help their family survive during a drought. Two long years later, the boys are still at the cacao camp where they have been taken and made to work "all day, week after week, season after season, never getting paid." Amadou, Seydou, and the other boys at the camp must harvest a high quota of cacao pods each day or face severe beatings. When a girl--the camp's first--arrives, her "wildcat" spirit stirs in Amadou a renewed sense of urgency to escape. The girl, Khadija, also causes trouble for Amadou and Seydou with the camp bosses, setting off a chain of horrific, life-changing events that start the children on an uncertain journey toward home. Following Golden Boy (2013), this is Sullivan's second novel about real-life atrocities affecting children in Africa. With it, she delivers an unforgettable story of courage and compassion while illuminating the terrible truth about how the chocolate we consume is made. At the same time, Sullivan allows Amadou, Khadija, and Seydou to be the resilient heroes of their own story, just as their real-life counterparts around the world fight against the odds for change in their communities. A tender, harrowing story of family, friendship, and the pursuit of freedom. (Fiction. 12 & up)

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from January 1, 2016

    Gr 8 Up-The title of Sullivan's second novel is more description than metaphor, as it recounts the misery of child slavery on cacao farms in Africa. Facing hunger because of drought in their native Mali, 13-year-old Amadou and his beloved brother Seydou seek work to help their family. When the novel opens two years later, Amadou muses, "I don't count how many trees we pass because I don't count the things that don't matter. I don't count unripe pods. 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." Hope returns in the person of Khadijah, a hostage who is determined to escape even after a brutal punishment, reluctantly witnessed by Amadou. Their daring departure leads to action and adventure, some requiring suspension of disbelief. But the thrilling language, for example, the description of a terrifying leap into a speeding truck from an overhanging tree, races readers past the need for credibility. The novel's message is clear when the travelers reach relative safety with Khadijah's mother and Amadou tastes hot chocolate for the first time: "You mean that for the past two years we were kept on that farm to grow something that's a treat for city kids who can't sleep?" Back matter includes a glossary, list of sources, and an author's note with information about the international chocolate business. Readers are urged to choose fair trade chocolate as a step toward alleviating poverty among small cacao growers. VERDICT An engaging story that will engender empathy in readers. -Toby Rajput, National Louis University, Skokie, IL

    Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • DOGO Books bookworm444 - I absolutely love this book it has so much character and a touching story that will melt your heart all the way to the end

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