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.
About the Author
Tara Sullivan is the author of the award-winning and critically acclaimed Golden Boy. She was born in India and spent her childhood living in Bangladesh, Ecuador, Bolivia, and the Dominican Republic with her parents, who were international aid workers. She received a BA in Spanish literature and cognitive science from the University of Virginia, and an MA in Latin American Studies and an MPA in nonprofit management from Indiana University. She currently lives with her family in Massachusetts.
Praise for The Bitter Side of Sweet:
A California Young Reader Medal Nominee – 2020-2021
An ALA Notable Children’s Book – 2017
“A gripping and painful portrait of modern-day child slavery in the cacao plantations of the Ivory Coast.”—The Wall Street Journal
★ “A tender, harrowing story of family, friendship, and the pursuit of freedom.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
★ “In crisp, accessible prose, Sullivan draws readers into a most compelling story of survival under unspeakable hardship, bravery, and teamwork… Absorbing and important.”—Booklist, starred review
★ “[A] heart-wrenching survival tale.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
★ “An engaging story that will engender empathy in readers.”—School Library Journal, starred review
★ “Curriculum connections abound and even reluctant readers will be drawn to the suspenseful plot and distinctive characters.”—SLC, starred review
“First-world readers will learn much about how their pleasures are underwritten by the labor of their third- world peers… The resolution...is an as-good-as-it-gets kind of compromise that leaves much room for the activism advocated for in the author’s note that follows.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“This beautiful story of love triumphing over cruelty and profit stands out as an excellent book discussion choice or classroom study.”—VOYA