I Am a Taxi
by Deborah Ellis. Novel. 205 pages. Grades 5-8.
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Diego is twelve and lives with his mom and younger sister in a cell in a women's prison in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Diego and the other kids living in the prison are allowed to come and go. Diego runs errands for the women prisoners as a "taxi" to earn money for the family and goes to school on the outside.
Diego's father is in a prison nearby and Diego and his sister are free to visit him there. The family was traveling by bus when someone else's small packets of coca paste were found taped beneath their seats and so for the last four years they've been living in the prisons along with countless other families.
Diego's viewpoint is very matter-of-fact about their lives in the prisons and so the tone is not maudlin or pitiful though the details are stark. Diego's parents love him and his sister and are trying to raise them well. Still, Diego knows how bad they have it and longs to have them all back in their rural home. His parents, however, have thirteen more years to serve.
When Diego looses track of his sister when he's supposed to be watching her the women's prison's self-governing board takes away his taxi job. Desperate to help his mom pay for cell rent and food he takes a disastrous risk.
Grades 3 - 9
It's Our World Too: Young People Who Are Making a Difference: How They Do It--How You Can, Too! by Phillip Hoose. Nonfiction. 176 pages.
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So much of the news of young people in our society is sad that it was fun to read It's Our World Too. I thought by the cover that these were all young adults but the chapter that moved me most was about a class of first and second graders in Sweden who bought a rain forest. The writing is personal, emotional and so skillful that the young people cited here seem real and not too good to be true. Their projects were/are worthwhile, possible to emulate, and inspiring. This is a book to hand to students and teachers who are reading about the environment, the homeless, the handicapped and the disenfranchised and are feeling overwhelmed and hopeless about any and all of these problems. Read More.
- A Taste of Salt by Frances Temple. (1992, HarperTrophy. ISBN 0064471365. Order Info.) Novel. 182 pages. Grades 6-9.
This is a fascinating and disturbing novel set in Haiti. Djo has been severely wounded by a group of Tonton Macoute and is fighting for his life in a hospital. Jeremie is trying to record Djo's life story--partly for her own education and partly to keep Djo focused and wanting to live. This is a hopeful book in spite of its brutality. Read full review.
The Sacred Leaf by Deborah Ellis. (2007, Groundwood/Anansi. ISBN 9780888997517. Order Info.) Novel. 208 pages. Grades 5-8.
The sequel to I Am a Taxi.