Bitter Chocolate by Sally Grindley
Bloomsbury, 2010. ISBN 978 0747595021.
Beatings with a bicycle chain are a feared part of life for all the boys who are working prisoners on a coco bean plantation. They hate the overseer they nickname Le Couchon, who picks on them and wears them down.
Pascal, an eleven-year-old Guinean boy, is worn down already from experiences that he thinks of as no go areas for thought and conversation. When he stops accepting the awful situation he is in, he begins to remember what happened to him, and the horrible events he experienced are gradually revealed to the reader.
As a ten year old, he has seen the death of his father at the hands of rebels, has been caught, drugged and indoctrinated into becoming a boy soldier by insurgents, and has been duped by con men.
Le Couchon's harassment of Pascal and his young peers sway Pascal to action. He decides to escape with his friend Kojo, and find what is left of his family. How can a young boy who experiences these degrading situations find hope and escape? He needs help, and support. Who can he trust? How can he find his mother and sisters so he can take on his father's duties to help provide for the family?
Sally Grindley, a Smarties Prize Gold Medal winning author, has written a thought-provoking story that provides some understanding about the complex events that refugees and displaced people might experience. A motivating group or class novel for upper primary and lower secondary students studying enforced migration. A good weekend read for those who like a current world issue spin. An asset for a middle school library.