Sacred Leaf

by Deborah Ellis

Deborah Ellis’ sequel to the harrowing I Am a Taxi (Groundwood, 2006)... read more

Deborah Ellis’ sequel to the harrowing I Am a Taxi (Groundwood, 2006) continues the story of twelve-year-old Diego, who has found refuge with a peasant family after escaping from cocaine producers in the Bolivian forest. The Ricardo’s treat Diego as a son and brother, and their farm and family are sweet respite after the terrible trauma he endured. Even his prickly relationship with their daughter, Bonita, who is sure Diego’s presence means trouble, can’t alter the relief he feels. When the government destroys the Ricardo’s and other farmers’ coca crops as part of a U.S.-funded eradication program that fails to distinguish between coca’s role in the production of cocaine and its legitimate use for traditional purposes—which plays and important role in the local economy—Diego joins a protest that stretches on for days. The cocaleros close down the bridge across a major highway in a political action that is part of a larger protest for change across Bolivia. Diego’s old life in the city, where he worked as an errand runner in the women’s prison, make him a skilled messenger and important contributor to the efforts. Ellis’ story is an inspiring look at the struggle among the cocaleros and other laborers across Bolivia to obtain justice for the country’s working poor. An author’s note briefly recounts the widespread protests in that country in the year 2000, and the election of the head of the cocaleros labor union as Bolivia’s president in 2005. (Ages 10–15)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2008

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