Friendship, Family and Community during Reconstruction: February 2016 Intermediate 3-5January 24th, 2016 | Posted by in Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2015-2016 | February
Five years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Sugar works in the sugarcane fields of a plantation on the Mississippi River. An orphan, Sugar abhors her name with its constant reminder of the crop that has defined her life in many hard ways. Although some of the recently freed slaves have headed north, those with the fewest resources—like Sugar—are stuck in the cane fields and inescapable poverty. A friendship with Billy, the son of the plantation owner, gives Sugar some pleasure and freedom in her daily life, but no one among Billy’s family or Sugar’s fellow workers approves of their relationship. When the plantation owner brings in a group of Chinese laborers to help with the harvest, the other African Americans feel threatened and resentful of the newcomers until Sugar makes the overtures that ultimately allow the two groups to find connections. This accessible and compelling tale, set at a time about which little has been written for children, focuses on the transformative power of compassion and humanity. While Billy’s attitudes may be unrealistically progressive for the era, they mark a sense of hope found in few African American books of historical fiction. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Find resources for Sugar, including teaching guides, a book trailer, and more at TeachingBooks.net.
Something for everyone to discuss before reading the book:
- Do you like your name? Why or why not?
Start some conversation about the book with these discussion prompts:
- Why does Sugar still feel like she is not free even though she is no longer a slave?
- What makes Billy seem as though he is also not free?
- Why is Sugar so able to make friends with people who are not like her?
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