At ten years old, Sugar doesn’t know any other life but the one she’s lived on the banks of the Mississippi at River Road Plantation – but she does know she hates sugar! Slavery is over, but she’s still in the fields cutting cane, and trying to sneak in some fun with Billy, the plantation owner’s son. When a group of Chinese workers arrives to help harvest the cane, Sugar wants to learn everything about them. New friendships form, transforming Sugar’s world. She dares to begin to dream of a life beyond River Road.
Jewell Parker Rhodes has crafted a gem with this middle grade historical novel set in the Reconstruction Era, a period of American history that has rarely been written about for children. She brings the character of Sugar alive with descriptions that enchant but which never overpower Sugar’s own straightforward voice. Strong-spirited Sugar may not be very typical of that period of history, but young readers will easily connect with her. Adult readers will recognize Rhodes from her other historical novels set in Louisiana, including Voodoo Dreams and Voodoo Moon. Her first novel for young readers, Ninth Ward, received a Coretta Scott King Honor. Sugar is her second middle grade novel, and just as good if not better.