Amadou thought that he was leaving Mali to hopefully be able to earn some money for his family. Drought over the years had left his area of the country badly impoverished, and he hoped to be like other children who had left and returned with money in their pockets. His little brother, Seydou comes with him. What Amadou can’t know is that the farm he lands on, isn’t one that will pay him. Instead, he’s been sold to a family that can’t afford to pay workers a wage, so they rely on children to work their cacao trees and repay them with harsh working conditions, beatings if the daily quota isn’t met and a miserable existence. Quickly, Amadou realizes that he isn’t going home at the end of the season with money is his pocket. In fact, he’s never seen a boy leave the farm…alive.
Amadou has spent the last two years of his life in this terrible situation, trying each day to keep his much younger brother alive and safe, with no end in sight or a way out that he can see. Until one day something strange happens. A girl shows up at the farm. No other girls have ever come to the farm and no other girls work with them currently. Why would a girl show up and by herself, with no other new boys to work with the cacao pods?
Right away, the girl causes trouble, and somehow Seydou and Amadou are always right in the middle when it comes to her.
The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan takes a subject about a little known event that is happening currently in the world and something that many of us take for granted. How does chocolate end up in our stores and in our lives? What is the price that others are paying for us to have that moment of sweetness in our mouths? Is it worth it?
Recommended for mature 7th graders and up. Very insightful story and important read.