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I Am a Taxi

by Deborah Ellis

Published by Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press, 2006
205 pages
ISBN: 0–88899–735–3

Ages 10-14

The coca leaf in its natural form is an important part of indigenous culture in rural Bolivia. In the cities, however, the dealing of it is illegal as it can easily be transformed into the dangerous drug cocaine. Diego’s parents have been framed for trafficking coca leaves. Although innocent, they are in jail, and Diego and his little sister live with their mother in the women’s prison. The women and children in the prison community are responsible for obtaining their own food and clothing. To earn money for his family, Diego is a “taxi,” running errands and messages for the women both within and outside the prison walls. But when he loses the privilege of working as a taxi, he reluctantly accepts a job offer from a foreigner, a man who offers big money to Diego and a friend for short-term work in the forest. The first of Deborah Ellis’s Cocalero novels exposes the injustice and exploitation that combine to determine Diego’s harsh and harrowing fate. Both corruption and the legal system—in his own nation and on the international scene—are working against the young boy, who finds himself thrust into the midst of a large and deadly cocaine ring. The bosses attempt to placate both his hunger and his ambition by plying him with leaves to chew, but Diego is determined to survive and break free.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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