Reviews for I Am a Taxi


Booklist Reviews 2006 November #2
Diego, 12, lives in prison in the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia, stuck there with his parents, who have been falsely arrested for smuggling drugs. He attends school and works as a "taxi," running errands for the inmates in the great street market. Then his friend, Mando, persuades him to make big money, and the boys find themselves stomping coca leaves in cocaine pits in the jungle, with local gangsters and a smooth boss who supplies "hungry noses" in America. Readers will be caught up by the nonstop action in the prison, and also in the jungle survival adventure, where escape is tempered by the specter of death. The connection between medicinal coca leaves, sacred to the indigenous people, and their exploitation by the global drug runners is not entirely clear, but, as in The Breadwinner (2001) and many of her previous books, Ellis tells a bold story of contemporary kids in crisis and brutally exploited far away. A sequel is on the way. ((Reviewed November 15, 2006)) Copyright 2006 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2007 Spring
In Cochabamba, Bolivia, twelve-year-old Diego's parents are in prison on false drug convictions. Diego gets sucked into working for a drug dealer, which turns into brutal servitude deep in the Bolivian jungle. The book's strength lies in the glimpse of an individual struggling to exist in a society with limited options for escape. An author's note provides background. Glos. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2007 #1
In Cochabamba, Bolivia, twelve-year-old Diego's parents are in prison on false drug convictions. As long as Diego and his little sister behave, they can live in their mother's cell and even visit their father, housed in the men's facility next door. Diego attends school on the outside and earns the money necessary to pay rent on their cells and provide their meals. He does so by selling items his mother knits and by working as a "taxi," an errand boy for those unable to leave the prison. Diego's need for money consumes his life, so that even though he's level-headed and street smart, his best friend is able to persuade him that they can make big bucks with just a few days of easy work for a local drug dealer: "Playtime's over, Diego. We're men now." Those few days of work turn into brutal servitude deep in the Bolivian jungle. Diego's survival there creates suspense late in the story, but the strength of the book lies in the glimpse of a single individual struggling to exist in a society with limited options for escape. An author's note provides background for the novel, and a glossary defines potentially unfamiliar language. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Library Media Connection - April/May 2007
This is not your usual teen storyline. Diego lives in a Bolivian prison with his mother and sister, while his father lives in the nearby men's prison. Diego must help his parents pay for everything they need while in prison: food, blankets, soap, water, etc. He messes up and loses his job running errands as a "taxi." The only way he knows to make money then is to help some men in the jungle. There Diego finds that in the end he must slip out of their grasp if he is to live. Diego's life is unlike anything U.S. kids have to deal with, but his dreams are not. This is an excellent story that will appeal to any readers who feel trapped by their lives. This story will give hope to their struggles. The characters are well-drawn and realistic. Diego's world is vivid, but not hopeless. Diego is a strong character who uses his intelligence to change as much as he can of his situation. Recommended. Nancy Gooch, MLS, Fairfield (Texas)-Harmony Presbyterian Church Library [Editor's Note: Also available in paperback.] © 2007 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2006 December

Gr 5-8 Ellis’s novel attempts to expose the strains that cocaine production and trade and the U.S “War on Drugs” have placed on Bolivians. Diego’s parents have been wrongfully incarcerated for drug smuggling. While they serve their 16-year sentences, the 12-year-old, who would otherwise be homeless, lives in the women’s prison with his mother and younger sister. He earns money as a “taxi,” running errands in the city for the prisoners. One day his friend convinces him that they can make easier money working for men who turn out to be involved in cocaine manufacturing. The boys are enslaved in the jungle, Diego’s friend dies, and Diego barely escapes with his life. This harrowing part of the narrative is somewhat rushed and is less convincing than the rest. Nonetheless, 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. Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY

[Page 138]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2006 December
For twelve-year-old Diego and his family, home is a prison in Bolivia where his parents, who were wrongly convicted of drug possession, are serving long sentences. Diego lives mostly with his mother and little sister but occasionally visits his father in the nearby men's prison. Like the other older children, he can come and go, and he attends school every day and walks to the market to sell his mother's hand-knitted goods. He also works as a "taxi," running errands for other prisoners, which helps to earn the money needed to pay for the cell and other commodities in the prison. His friend Mando convinces him that it is time to make big money, and soon the boys are deep in the jungle, working as virtual slaves in an illegal cocaine operation. Mando dies trying to escape, but Diego eventually finds a safe haven with a campesino family. 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. In an author's note, she explains the difficulties experienced by the farmers of Bolivia who have been growing coca for centuries but who now find themselves caught in the vicious cycle of the crack cocaine drug trade and the unintended consequences of "war on drugs." A glossary serves to further explain unfamiliar Spanish and indigenous language. This unusual coming-of-age novel describes a life where, for a boy like Diego, the illegal drug trade seems to be the only game in town. Readers can look forward to a sequel.-Lois Parker-Hennion Glossary. 4Q 4P J S Copyright 2006 Voya Reviews.

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