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I Am a Taxi

Written by Deborah Ellis

Series Title: The Cocalero Novels

  • 208 Pages
  • 9780888997364
  • 7.450" x 4.970"
  • 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, 2006

Winner of the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award

For twelve-year-old Diego and his family, home is a prison in Cochabamba, Bolivia. His parents farmed coca, a traditional Bolivian medicinal plant, until they got caught in the middle of the government's war on drugs and were mistakenly convicted of drug possession.

Diego's parents are locked up, but he can come and go: to school, to the market to sell his mother's handknitted goods, and to work as a "taxi," running errands for other prisoners. But then his little sister temporarily runs off while under his watch, earning his mother a heavy fine. The debt and dawning realization of his hopeless situation make him vulnerable to his friend Mando's plan to make big money, fast.

Soon, Diego is deep in the jungle, working as a virtual slave in an illegal cocaine operation. As his situation becomes more and more dangerous, he knows he must take a terrible risk if he ever wants to see his family again.

Winner of the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award 2007

Short-listed for the Alberta Children's Choice Award 2008

Short-listed for the Manitoba Young Reader's Choice Award 2008

Long-listed for the SYRCA Snow Willow Award 2007

Long-listed for the YALSA BBYA 2007

Long-listed for the OLA Golden Oak Award 2008

Selected for the CCBC Our Choice (Starred Selection) 2007

Selected for the CLA Book of the Year for Children Award 2007

Selected for the Cooperative Children's Book Center Choice 2007

Selected for the SSLI Honor Book 2007

Selected for the White Ravens 2007


Deborah Ellis

DEBORAH ELLIS is the author of more than two dozen books, including The Breadwinner, which has been published in twenty-five languages and was recently adapted into a feature-length animated film and a graphic novel. She has won the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Middle East Book Award, the Peter Pan Prize, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award and the Vicky Metcalf Award for a Body of Work. She has received the Ontario Library Association’s President’s Award for Exceptional Achievement, and she has been named to the Order of Canada. She has donated almost $2 million in royalties to organizations such as Women for Women in Afghanistan, UNICEF and Street Kids International.


Star Review

"...the strength of the book lies in the glimpse of a single individual struggling to exist in a society with limited options for escape." Horn Book, STARRED REVIEW

"...because of its unusual setting and subject matter, and Ellis's efforts to explicate complex social, political, and economic issues, this book should find a place in larger collections." School Library Journal

"...Ellis exposes her North American readers to the harsh lives being experienced by children and youths who live in developing countries...Highly Recommended." CM Magazine

"Ellis artfully describes the horrible conditions in the overcrowded prison, the street children who sniff glue, and the backbreaking labor-often performed by children-to make the paste that will eventually become crack cocaine...Readers can look forward to a sequel." VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)

"Ellis makes a strong and informative case for protecting and honoring coca as an important medicinal and cash crop for the Bolivian farmers while strongly condemning the cocaine trade; as usual, her case is made with compelling characters and riveting action rather than through didactic intrusions." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Deborah Ellis's latest glimpse into another culture is a valuable addition to her oeuvre." Vancouver Sun

"I Am a Taxi is uncompromisingly gritty and graphic, painting a devastatingly accurate portrait of life for kids (and their parents) in the Third World....a good story, well told, with a compelling plot and fully realized characters, that will captivate readers." Quill & Quire

"Once again, Deborah Ellis takes us into the harsh realities of a developing country...[The story] is told in a stark, realistic manner and shows a way of life which is almost impossible for most children in Canada to imagine. I Am a Taxi will be enjoyed by male and female readers in the intermediate grades and I'm sure they will enthusiastically await the find out what new adventures await Diego." Resource Links

"Readers will be caught up by the nonstop action in the prison, and also in jungle survival adventure, where escape is peppered by the specter of death." Booklist

"This book should be in junior and senior high school libraries. The story is gripping, well written, and informative. It will attract reluctant readers and still please those who read more widely." Kliatt

"This is not your usual teen excellent story that will appeal to any readers who feel trapped by their lives....The characters are well-drawn and realistic." Library Media Connection

"Vivid details and a thrilling plot will keep older children and teens engaged in this highly-accessible, realistic novel." Reforma