USBBY Oustanding International Books selection
After he finally manages to escape from being a virtual slave in an illegal cocaine operation, Diego is taken in by the Ricardo family -- poor coca farmers who provide a safe haven while he recovers from his ordeal in the jungle. But even that brief respite comes to an end when the army moves in and destroys the family's coca crop -- and their livelihood.
Diego eventually joins the cocaleros as they protest the destruction of their crops by barricading the roads, confronting the army head on. As tension between the cocaleros builds to a dramatic standoff, the wonders whether he will ever find a way to return to his family.
It's a dramatic story that manages the nuances...
...Ellis brings the events themselves alive...[readers] will be sorry to say goodbye.
...middle school readers possessing a developing social conscience will recognize that Ellis is really telling a story that has a much greater significance beyond just this one isolated happening.
This compassionate account of the lives of the working poor makes us care deeply about the characters, both children and adults, because their struggles have a human face. Strikingly, the children are as integral to the success of the blockade as the adults, and no one belittles their support. Ellis portrays adults who truly respect the part that children can play in the world and children who believe that they can make a, difference. This ultimately makes Sacred Leaf a powerful work of fiction for young readers.
Ellis sketches believable, well-delineated characters in very few words: in Diego, grief and decency, eagerness to help and desire for affection comingle appealingly...a remarkably compact blend of character and engaging, dramatic events...a good choice for reluctant readers.
Based on historical events in Bolivia's history, this realistic fiction novel contains enough adventure to draw reluctant readers while providing important information that is little know by today's youth. Highly recommended.