What to Read After… Look Up! 20/09/21
Publisher: Andersen Press
This story is inspired by a real life rebellion in British-owned slave plantations in Jamaica in 1760. 14 year old Moa’s dad warns him not to join in the rebellion being plotted by charismatic leader Tacky because he can’t bear to lose another son, but Moa makes the decision to become a Cane Warrior and join the resistance - even a glimmer of hope of freedom is better than the horrendous life he is forced to live on the plantation. Moa never sees his mother, who works as a cook at the plantation owner's house, and Moa himself is forced to work back-breaking thirteen hour days in the fields. Tacky represents the chance to seize a new life; how could Moa refuse?
This is a brutal, bloody, terrifying story, compellingly written and heartstopping to read. Moa’s life before the rebellion makes the violence of the uprising feel like a release in the novel. Cane Warriors is a book about doing the right thing, unbelievable bravery and deep friendship; but most importantly this book is about a part of British and Jamaican history that is hardly known, and the stories of these hard-won human rights need to be heard even though it’s uncomfortable.
Alex Wheatle’s afterword is also important reading: his own mother was raised near the area of the slave plantations where Tacky led his uprising, and she heard the stories of the brave rebellions by true heroes in her childhood, stories that need to be heard now. Alex adds vital context about the British Empire and how its deep connection with slavery resonates through generations to the present day.
The book contains graphic descriptions of violence and brutality throughout, so this is one best for older children aged thirteen and up.