From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Gr 8 Up–This meticulously researched, brutally honest, compelling book offers readers a different way to look at many events over the past 200 years or so. The title says it all. From the slave trade through abolition; from revolutions (American, French, and Haitian) to the Louisiana Purchase; from the decline of honey to the rise of saccharine, these events and many more are directly traced to the cultivation and production of sugar cane around the world. With a focus on slavery, Aronson and Budhos demonstrate how this one crop, with its unique harvesting needs, helped to bring about a particularly brutal incarnation of slavery. What makes this such a captivating read is that the book has a jigsaw-puzzle feel as the authors connect seemingly disparate threads and bring readers to the larger picture by highlighting the smaller details hidden within. Primary-source materials such as photographs, interview excerpts, and maps are included throughout, making this an indispensable part of any history collection. The chapter entitled “How We Researched and Wrote This Book” will be of particular interest to teachers and librarians.Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA
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As the title suggests, this stirring, highly detailed history of the sugar trade reaches across time and around the globe. Framed by the authors’ family connections to the subject, the chapters move from New Guinea, where humans are believed to have first cultivated sugar cane 10,000 years ago, to its spread across the ancient world. With a chapter titled “Hell,” the authors delve into brutal accounts of the rise of sugar plantations in the Caribbean and Hawaii. In the U.S., where the sugar story centered on Louisiana, even supposedly free states, such as New York, made fortunes in transporting and selling sugar grown by slaves. The book’s scope is ambitious, but the clear, informal prose, along with maps and archival illustrations, makes the horrific connections with dramatic immediacy. A closing chapter about how Gandhi’s struggle for human rights affected the sugar trade brings in more of the authors’ stories. A teacher’s guide is available, and classroom discussion is sure to spark intense interest and further research, starting with the fully documented sources at the back. Grades 8-12. --Hazel Rochman