Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan

Amadou and his younger brother went to work in the cacao fields picking pods off the trees.  It's hard work.  They use machetes, climb the trees and gather the pods.  They're watched constantly.  If they don't make their quota, they're beaten.  It was to be a job where they would go home after the season and take the money they earned with them.  Instead it's a guarded camp where they work, get little to eat and get beaten for any perceived transgression.  There's no way to escape...

G P Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers and Net Galley allowed me to read this book for review (thank you).  It has been published and you can get a copy now.

Khadija is a surprise.  First off, she's a girl.  No women are allowed in the camp.  She's also brought alone.  Workers are brought as groups.  Even worse than that, she's trouble.  She wants to escape and will do anything to do so.  That means that anyone who associates with her will share the guilt.  The first time, his younger brother gets too close to her and she cuts her rope and runs off.  Amadou assumes the guilt for the younger brother and gets very badly beaten.  The girl gets beaten, too, and then they are both put in the toolshed with no food that night.  This is a mean rough camp with tough men who run it.

They continue to work at what they are allowed.  While Amadou is not allowed out in the forest again to pick the cacao, his brother goes on his own.  He's much younger but he gets his quota the first day.  But he soon gets injured.  His arm has been cut with a machete because he wasn't careful enough.  His brother loses his arm.  And Amadou has had enough.  He makes up his mind to escape.

It's hard to run with beaten bodies and only one arm.  They have no food with them and very little water.  Going on foot won't get them far enough.  So the three of them develop a tenuous plan...

As always in the history of man, someone is exploiting the workers.  This time it's children.  There are no good solutions but someone needs to police them.  The fact that cacao beans are valuable doesn't help.

The children in this book do okay but it's fretful to know these camps still exist and abuse is wide spread.  Next time you have a hot chocolate, think about who might have picked those beans...

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