Module 8 YA Nonfiction-Sugar Changed the World

Aronson, Marc; Budhos, Marina. Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science. New York: Clarion Books, 2010. ISBN 9780618574926

As someone with a serious sweet tooth, it isn’t surprising that Sugar Changed the World caught my eye. It tells the story of the production and trade of cane sugar.

I will say I found it a little disappointing. It had less to do with the substance (sugar) itself and more to do with the effect of sugar production. Despite labeling the ages in interesting and relatable ways (Age of Honey, Age of Sugar, Age of Science) and mentioning two different types of sugar in the introduction (cane and beet) it was a disappointing if straightforward read.

The introduction (How We Came to Write This Book) clearly states the fact that there are two types of sugar and that beet sugar can be used differently than cane. However, beet sugar is barely mentioned in this 128 page book and it never mentions what’s so special about being able to color beet sugar. The authors set a nice scene, but only give half of what they seemed to promise (granted they explain why in the essay “How We Researched and Wrote This Book” but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing).

That being said, the book never ceases to be interesting. Aronson and Budhos use images, song lyrics, and clear descriptions to not only make it easy for the reader to make a connection to the slaves in the Caribbean, but also to understand where the Europen and Middle Eastern traders encountered and learned to love sugar.

This book has an extensive index, a master timeline for sugar history, a web guide to the images, a notes and sources section, a bibliography, and a list of suggested websites. It is a good introduction for the study of sugar, slavery, the Caribbean, or (if only looking at the last chapter) Gandhi. It would be a good book to use to teach a teen how to research. It covers an interesting topic, has a bibliography and web site page that aren’t overwhelming, and has the essay explaining how the authors approached their own research to write the book.

Awards

Kirkus Best Young Adult Books-2010

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults-2012

Reviews

Booklist—“ 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.”

Kirkus—“ Covering 10,000 years of history and ranging the world, the story is made personal by the authors’ own family stories, their passion for the subject and their conviction that young people are up to the challenge of complex, well-written narrative history.”

Works Cited

Kirkus Reviews. September 2010. (Vol. 78, No. 17) Electronic. Accessed via CLCD at http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=0&isbn=9780618574926

Rochman, Hazel. Booklist. October 2010. (Vol. 107, No. 4) Electronic. Accessed via CLCD at http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=0&isbn=9780618574926

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