Coretta Scott King Honoree Jewel Parker Rhodes tells a beautiful tale of determination, hope, and connection in her forthcoming book for young readers, Sugar.  Reading this wonderful book brought to mind other strong-willed young girls who recognize and rise above their limited circumstances (Lillie in Freedom Stone, Deza in The Mighty Miss Malone, Zulaikha in Words in the Dust, and Addie in A Thousand Never Evers) to become more than their communities or their social circumstances would have expected them to be.

Set five years after the end of the Civil War, 10 year old Sugar has lived her whole life on River Road sugar plantation on Southern Louisana.  Her father having been sold years ago and her mother having recently died of exhaustion, Sugar feels that even though she may be free, she chaffs against the prospect of spending her life toiling at River Road.  To find some escape, Sugar explores the edges of River Road, and soon teams up with an unlikely ally, Billy, the plantation owner’s son.

When Chinese laborers are brought in to work on the plantation, Sugar sees another opportunity to quench her thirst for knowledge about the world beyond River Road.  While the other River Road folks are threatened by the presence of the Chinese, Sugar is intrigued and soon has made friends with young Beau and Master Liu.  Sugar realizes its up to her to bridge the gap between the Chinese laborers and the former slaves who still work at River Road, and it doesn’t take long for her loyalty, charm, and determination to bring the whole community together.

Sugar is both a story about and character keenly aware of the possibilities, connections, and opportunities life has to offer.  Faced with a fate that seems harsh, unchangeable, and isolating, Sugar chooses instead to believe in and actively create relationships and a future for herself that are full of hope, promise, and love.

  • Posted by Cori

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