Cover image for Sugar / Jewell Parker Rhodes.
Sugar / Jewell Parker Rhodes.
Publication Information:
New York, New York : Scholastic, [2015]

Physical Description:
272 pages : illustrations ; 20 cm


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
RHO Paperback Junior Paperback Fiction
RHO Paperback Junior Paperback Fiction

On Order



From Jewell Parker Rhodes, the author of Towers Falling and Ninth Ward (a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and a Today show Al's Book Club for Kids pick) comes a tale of a strong, spirited young girl who rises beyond her circumstances and inspires others to work toward a brighter future.
Ten-year-old Sugar lives on the River Road sugar plantation along the banks of the Mississippi. Slavery is over, but laboring in the fields all day doesn't make her feel very free. Thankfully, Sugar has a knack for finding her own fun, especially when she joins forces with forbidden friend Billy, the white plantation owner's son.
Sugar has always yearned to learn more about the world, and she sees her chance when Chinese workers are brought in to help harvest the cane. The older River Road folks feel threatened, but Sugar is fascinated. As she befriends young Beau and elder Master Liu, they introduce her to the traditions of their culture, and she, in turn, shares the ways of plantation life. Sugar soon realizes that she must be the one to bridge the cultural gap and bring the community together. Here is a story of unlikely friendships and how they can change our lives forever.

Author Notes

Jewell Parker Rhodes is an award-winning author. Her books include Voodoo Dreams, Magic City, Douglass' Women, Season, Moon, Hurricane, and the children's book, Ninth Ward. She is also the author of the writing guides Free Within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors and The African American Guide to Writing and Publishing Nonfiction.

Her work has been published in Germany, Italy, Canada, Turkey, and the United Kingdom and reproduced in audio and for NPR's "Selected Shorts." Rhodes honors include: the American Book Award, the National Endowment of the Arts Award in Fiction, the Black Caucus of the American Library Award for Literary Excellence, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award for Outstanding Writing, and two Arizona Book Awards.

Rhodes is the Virginia G. Piper Chair in Creative Writing and Artistic Director of Piper Global Engagement at Arizona State University.

(Bowker Author Biography) Jewell Parker Rhodes is a professor of creative writing and American literature at Arizona State University. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

In 1870 Louisiana, five years after the Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery, Sugar is still bound to the crop whose name she shares: "I'm ten now. I'm not a slave anymore. I'm free. Except from sugar." Sugar and her mother had been waiting for the return of her father, who was sold shortly after Sugar was born; when Sugar's mother died, her daughter was left with nowhere to go. Sugar's caring guardians and her occasional adventures in the woods are bright spots in her life, but she feels left behind as friends head north. When "Chinamen" are hired to work on the plantation, Sugar's community feels threatened; however, Sugar's intuition, curiosity, and spirit move her to befriend the perceived enemy and bring everyone together. Rhodes (Ninth Ward) paints a realistic portrait of the hard realities of Sugar's life, while also incorporating Br'er Rabbit stories and Chinese folktales. Sugar's clipped narration is personable and engaging, strongly evoking the novel's historical setting and myriad racial tensions, making them accessible and meaningful to beginning readers. Ages 8-12. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Sugar, a ten-year-old African American girl in Reconstruction Louisiana, hates everything about sugar: "Sugar bites a hundred times, breaking skin and making you bleed...Sugar calls -- all kinds of bugs, crawling, inching, flying...I hate, hate, hate sugar." The work on a sugarcane plantation is brutal, and Sugar's mother died two years ago. The community of cane workers, all former slaves, is equal parts loving and disapproving of Sugar's high spirits, but she's increasingly lonely as the other families move away for a better life in the North. When the plantation owner's son, Billy, starts making friendly overtures, Sugar is ready to accept, though they both know they aren't supposed to play together. Her outgoing nature helps her reach out to the new group of Chinese sugarcane workers, and her friendship with the youngest of them enlarges her view of the world and its possibilities. Rhodes vividly depicts Sugar's experiences and sensations, from the razor-sharp leaves of the cane field to the sights and smells of the Mississippi River, using short, direct, and evocative sentences. The novel's plot may be a little predictable, but with her endearing feistiness, realistically shifting moods, and capacity for friendship, Sugar is an engaging and memorable character. susan dove lempke (c) Copyright 2013. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.