The Bitter Side of Sweet

BitterSideOfSweet_co#C73B11 copy


Fifteen-year-old Amadou counts the things that matter. For two long years, what’s mattered are cacao pods. The more Amadou can chop down in a single day, the better his chances are of keeping the bosses’ beatings at bay, keeping himself and his little brother, Seydou, alive and then maybe, just maybe, returning home to Baba and Auntie. At least he hopes so. But the bosses won’t tell him the number that matters most—the number that equals freedom.

When the boys first left their farm life in Mali, they only wanted to make some money to help their impoverished family survive the lean times. They never imagined they’d end up as forced labor on a cacao plantation in the Ivory Coast. But that’s exactly what happened, and each day that passes, they lose a little more fight, a little more hope that they’ll ever be free or see their home again.

Then one day, a girl—Khadija—arrives at the camp. There’s never been a girl on the farm before and she is a wild thing, fighting every day to get away and reawakening Amadou’s thoughts of escape. But when the bosses finally break her, and the unthinkable happens to Seydou, Amadou understands the only choice left—the only choice they’ve ever had—is to run . . . or die without their loved ones ever knowing what happened to them. The three band together as family and try just once more for home.

Tara Sullivan, the award-winning author of Golden Boy, delivers another powerful, riveting, and moving tale of children fighting to make a difference and be counted. Inspired by true-to-life events unfolding in Africa today, The Bitter Side of Sweet is an exquisitely written tour de force that demonstrates the indomitable power of family and the will to survive.


YALSA Books For Young Readers Large List

YALSA Amazing Audiobooks Large List

ALSC Notable Children’s Books of 2017

Bank Street’s 2017 The Best Children’s Books of the Year

IL: 2018 Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award Master List

SC: 2017-18 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award Nominee

TX: 2017 TAYSHAS Reading List

VT: 2017-2018 Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Master List

WI: 2017 Just One More Page Master List 




“A tender, harrowing story of family, friendship, and the pursuit of freedom.”
-Kirkus, starred review

“Absorbing and important.”
– Booklist, starred review

– Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Curriculum connections abound and even reluctant readers will be drawn to the suspenseful plot and distinctive characters.”

“An engaging story that will engender empathy in readers.”
– School Library Journal, starred review

“This beautiful story of love triumphing over cruelty and profit stands out as an excellent book discussion choice or classroom study.”
-VOYA, 5Q 3P J S


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