With her parents’ love and acceptance, Sugarcane overcomes the obstacles she faces to become the truest version of herself–the Midnight Robber, who “learned to steal deh hearts of millions, one verse and rhyme at a time.” This includes facing the relatable challenge of bullies. “I’m rough and tough like leather, and dresses ain’t never been my ting,” Sugarcane says. “If bullies want to poke fun at dat, den brace for deh verbal arrows I go sling!” One of this book’s most interesting aspects is its Caribbean dialect, supplemented by a playful glossary, which makes reading it out loud an immersive and exciting cultural experience for kids.
Along with the text, O’Brien’s detailed, expressive illustrations show Sugarcane dancing, dressing in costumes, and playing on a beach with her family, which illuminate the text and will spark young readers’ imaginations. The costumes are especially fascinating, a visual feast of pirates, parasols, playing cards, and ballgowns, often rendered with just the right touch of spooky, whimsical flair. This lively book will also help children and their parents talk about the importance of self-expression and acceptance–and maybe even inspire the creation of a colorful costume or two.
Takeaway: A little girl’s journey to be true to herself amidst the lively backdrop of carnival season in Trinidad.
Great for fans of: Nadia L. Hohn’s Malaika’s Costume, Errol Lloyd’s Nini At Carnival.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B
"It is full of wonderful cultural stories and references, and with the sing-sonny nature of the rhyme and the vernacular, it's really fun to read. Rhyming text can be a tough sell, but I think it works here. I like the headstrong female protagonist, too!! The artwork is BOLD, but then again - so is she! I think it matches the story nicely."
"The illustrations go beyond the colorful ones that you expect from a children's book... After each reading, I found new details in the illustrations that told the story outside of the words on the page!"