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Sullivan, Tara.
New York : G. P. Putnam’s & Sons, 2016
ISBN 0399173072

(2 booktalks)

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Booktalk #1

Can you think of your favorite chocolate bar? Think about the sweet taste on your tongue and the way the chocolate makes you feel? To most of us, chocolate is yummy and good! It is a treat! But to some in the world, chocolate is no treat. Chocolate is The Bitter Side of Sweet. Amadou is fifteen years old. Two years ago, he and his younger brother Seydou who is eight, left their family in Mali and traveled to the Ivory Coast to work on a farm to harvest cacao. Cacao, “the food of the gods,” is used to make chocolate. The bus driver told their family that they would work one season, and earn some money to help the family. What Amadou’s family did not realize was that the bus driver would drop them at a cacao plantation that would force them to work grueling hours in dangerous conditions for no pay. He lied. Now, life for Amadou and Seydou is the same every day. They climb trees to cut cacao pods with machetes. They are fed a small breakfast and supper each day, but nothing more. They work from sunup to sundown and at night are locked into barracks with other boys to prevent them from running away. Amadou tried running when he first arrived at the camp, but after the tremendous beating, and the bosses’ threats to his brother, he does not try to escape again. That is until the girl Khadija shows up. One afternoon, a girl Khadija is dropped at the camp. This is something new. Up until now, only boys have been delivered to the camp. Never a girl. Why is she here? Amadou notices that this girl looks well fed with soft skin. She is not the typical village child sent to these farms. Khadija is not your typical village child. She is smart, educated and full of determination. And she desperately wants to return to her mother. A mother that has a connection to those that want to prevent child-slave labor. So Khadija uses her determination and Seydou to make her escape from the farm. Amadou cannot believe his brother would be so gullible to fall for the trick Khadija uses on Seydou to aid in her escape. Amadou feels great guilt for bringing his young brother to this horrible life of slavery. He will do anything to prevent his brother from getting punished by the bosses and hurt from the work on the farm. And so he does the only thing he knows to do. He takes the blame for the escape of Khadija. He knows that it will bring a beating, but what he doesn’t realize is that his life will now be forever changed. At first, Amadou thinks Khadija brings hurt and heartache. But then he learns that she brings more. She brings hope. Hope for freedom. Read The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan. (Prepared by: Alison Carpenter, Silver Bluff High School,
, South Carolina Young Adult Book Award, 2018)

Booktalk #2

In The Bitter Side of Sweet, Sullivan shines a harsh light on the horrors of modern-day slavery through 15-year old Amadou’s struggles to care for his eight-year old brother, Seydou, while farmers force them to harvest cacao on an Ivory Coast plantation. Tricked two years earlier into believing they had been offered seasonal work, the boys are locked in a shed at night, beaten for the smallest infraction, and punished with food deprivation. Escape attempts by a newly arrived 13-year-old girl, Khadija, inadvertently lead to Seydou suffering grievous injury. Terrified, but recognizing that Seydou will die if they remain enslaved, Amadou and Khadija make one more attempt at freedom. The novel’s message is clear when the travelers reach relative safety with Khadijah’s mother and Amadou tastes hot chocolate for the first time: “You mean that for the past two years we were kept on that farm to grow something that’s a treat for city kids who can’t sleep?”  (Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award, 2018)

SUBJECTS:     Blacks -- Cote d'Ivoire -- Fiction.
                        Child labor -- Fiction.
                        Chocolate -- Fiction.
                        Cote d'Ivoire -- Fiction.        
                        Slavery -- Fiction.

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