Groundwood Books Imprint Logo

Sacred Leaf

Written by Deborah Ellis

Series Title: The Cocalero Novels

  • 208 Pages
  • 9780888998088
  • 7.690" x 5.190"
  • Reading age from 10 to 14
  • JUVENILE FICTION / People & Places / Caribbean & Latin America
  • JUVENILE FICTION / Social Situations / Drugs, Alcohol, Substance Abuse
  • JUVENILE FICTION / Social Situations / Violence


Publication Date September 01, 2007

USBBY Oustanding International Books selection

After he finally manages to escape from being a virtual slave in an illegal cocaine operation, Diego is taken in by the Ricardo family -- poor coca farmers who provide a safe haven while he recovers from his ordeal in the jungle. But even that brief respite comes to an end when the army moves in and destroys the family's coca crop -- and their livelihood.

Diego eventually joins the cocaleros as they protest the destruction of their crops by barricading the roads, confronting the army head on. As tension between the cocaleros builds to a dramatic standoff, the wonders whether he will ever find a way to return to his family.

Long-listed for the CLA Book of the Year for Children Award 2007

Selected for the Americas Award Commended List 2008

Selected for the National Post's Top New Books 2007

Selected for the Quill & Quire Books of the Year 2007 List 2007

Selected for the USBBY Outstanding International Books 2008

Selected for the CCBC Choices 2008 2008

Selected for the Horace Mann Upstanders Book Award 2008

Selected for the CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens 2008 (Starred Selection) 2008


Deborah Ellis
Deborah Ellis is best known for her Breadwinner books — a series that has been published in twenty-five languages, with more than $1 million in royalties donated to Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan and Street Kids International. She has won the Governor General’s Award, the Ruth Schwartz Award, the University of California’s Middle East Book Award, Sweden’s Peter Pan Prize, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, and the Vicky Metcalf Award for a Body of Work. She recently received the Ontario Library Association’s President’s Award for Exceptional Achievement, and she has been named to the Order of Ontario.


"This compassionate account of the lives of the working poor makes us care deeply about the characters, both children and adults, because their struggles have a human face. Strikingly, the children are as integral to the success of the blockade as the adults, and no one belittles their support. Ellis portrays adults who truly respect the part that children can play in the world and children who believe that they can make a, difference. This ultimately makes Sacred Leaf a powerful work of fiction for young readers." Quill & Quire

"...Ellis brings the events themselves alive...[readers] will be sorry to say goodbye." Paper Tigers

"...middle school readers possessing a developing social conscience will recognize that Ellis is really telling a story that has a much greater significance beyond just this one isolated happening." CM Magazine

"Based on historical events in Bolivia's history, this realistic fiction novel contains enough adventure to draw reluctant readers while providing important information that is little know by today's youth. Highly recommended." Reforma

"Ellis sketches believable, well-delineated characters in very few words: in Diego, grief and decency, eagerness to help and desire for affection comingle appealingly...a remarkably compact blend of character and engaging, dramatic events...a good choice for reluctant readers." Toronto Star

"It's a dramatic story that manages the nuances..." Kliatt