The Bitter Side of Sweet
The Bitter Side of Sweet

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Annotation: In this true-to-life novel, fifteen-year-old Amadou forms an unlikely family with his brother, Seydou, and the girl known as Khadija as they make a desperate attempt to escape the cruel slavery of an Ivory Coast cacao plantation.
Catalog Number: #139776
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Penguin
Copyright Date: 2017
Edition Date: 2017
Pages: 299 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-14-751509-2 Perma-Bound: 0-605-97468-3
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-14-751509-4 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-97468-5
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2015038251
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
Horn Book
Fifteen-year-old Amadou and his little brother Seydou are debt slaves on an Ivory Coast cacao plantation. When feisty girl prisoner Khadija takes advantage of Seydou to try to escape, retribution falls on Amadou; confined to camp, Amadou isn't there to protect Seydou from life-threatening injury. This affecting, sometimes harsh tale demonstrates Sullivan's (Golden Boy) continuing commitment as a voice for human rights in Africa. Bib., glos.
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Sullivan follows up the acclaimed Golden Boy (2013) with a sophomore effort that promises to be equally eye-opening for American readers. Fifteen-year-old Amadou and his younger brother, Seydou, have been away from Mali, their home, for two years, as they work at an Ivory Coast cacao plantation. Each day is an exhaustive effort as Amadou watches out for Seydou, the youngest worker there, and struggles to meet the day's quota for the both of them. Just after a new worker arrives teenage girl, Khadija, who is bent on fleeing e worst thing happens: Seydou loses his arm in a work accident. Suddenly Amadou thinks Khadija is onto something. But could they really escape? In crisp, accessible prose, Sullivan draws readers into a most compelling story of survival under unspeakable hardship, bravery, and teamwork. Amadou's boundless love for his brother and his capacity for kinship with Khadija, whom he later discovers to be the kidnapped daughter of a journalist, is inspiring. There are so few stories for teenagers that provide a glimpse into the complex global systems, such as cocoa production, that they unwittingly participate in every day and likely take for granted. An author's note, glossary, and source material provide further context to engage readers and teachers. Absorbing and important.
Voice of Youth Advocates
Thirteen-year-old Amadou and his six-year-old brother Seydou leave their drought-ravaged farm in Mali to sign up for work at a cacao plantation on the Ivory Coast to provide for their family. Two years later, they have become used to the long hours, meager food, and almost daily beatings. They have lost hope of ever being paid or seeing their family again. Things worsen when Khadija, a thirteen-year-old girl, joins the group. She fights her captors and tries to escape, succeeding in implicating Amadou too. Amadou is beaten and incarcerated without food or water; Khadija is also brutally beaten and raped by the bosses. Seydou, working without Amadou to help him, is horribly hurt and almost dies. Together Amadou and Khadija plan an escape for the three of them. They finally reach Khadija's mother, who is a reporter writing an exposÚ on the production of chocolate.Rarely does fiction shine such a penetrating light on current events and the companies that turn a blind eye to how their cacao is produced so cheaply. Amadou's haunting voice will be evoked by every chocolate bar the reader consumes. The love and protection he offers his little brother is freely given even at the cost of injury or death himself. This beautiful story of love triumphing over cruelty and profit stands out as an excellent book discussion choice or classroom study. It will appeal to individual teens with pushing. It is well worth the extra effort to put this book in as many hands as possible.Nancy K. Wallace.Amadou and his brother labor tirelessly on a farm, always working toward freedom that will never be granted. Their lives change when a girl is brought to the camp. She reignites Amadou's desire to save himself and his brother and escape. The three work together to find freedom. This is a transfixing tale of adventure laced with hopelessness as suspicion turns to trust between Amadou and Khadija, complete with a shocking ending. 5Q, 4P.Mary Kusluch, Teen Reviewer.
Bibliography Index/Note: Includes bibliographical references (page 307).
Word Count: 77,416
Reading Level: 5.1
Interest Level: 7-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.1 / points: 12.0 / quiz: 179548 / grade: Upper Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.3 / points:19.0 / quiz:Q68131
Lexile: 810L
Guided Reading Level: Z
Fountas & Pinnell: Z

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. The higher the number the safer they are. The higher the number the closer they are to paying off their debt and returning home. 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 money to help their impoverished family, instead they were tricked into forced labor on a plantation in the Ivory Coast. 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 three band together as family and try just once more to escape.

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. 

“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


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