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I Am a Taxi

I Am a Taxi

4.7 8
by Deborah Ellis

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For twelve-year-old Diego and his family, home is the San Sebastian Women’s 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. Diego’s adjusted to his new life. His parents are locked up, but he can come and go: to school, to the


For twelve-year-old Diego and his family, home is the San Sebastian Women’s 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. Diego’s adjusted to his new life. His parents are locked up, but he can come and go: to school, to the market to sell his mother’s hand-knitted goods, and to work as a “taxi," running errands for other prisoners. But then his little sister runs away, 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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Winner of the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award, 2007

A SSLI Honor Book, 2007

Long-listed for the YALSA BBYA, 2007

"…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

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

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

Children's Literature - Denise Daley
Most young adults cannot imagine what life behind bars is like, but twelve-year-old Diego can barely remember life before bars. When he was a young boy his family was unfairly blamed for a crime they did not commit. As a result, Diego's mother is raising him and his baby sister in the prison where she is incarcerated. Diego is a smart and hardworking young person who dreams of a better life for him and his family. Unfortunately, dreams are not enough, especially for a young, poor, uneducated, South American boy whose parents are in jail. A friend of Diego's offers him an opportunity to become rich. Just two weeks of work and he could earn hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars. Diego is skeptical but the lure is more than he can resist. He soon finds himself being treated worse than an animal as he is forced to stomp on coca leaves to create a base that is used for cocaine. Even worse, he learns that his employer has no intention of paying him or letting him go. This moving story will have readers on the edge of their seats as they root for Diego. Additionally, readers will learn about the Bolivian culture and about the strife and struggles that sometimes confront other countries. This book is part of the "Cocalero Novels."
VOYA - Lois Parker-Hennion
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.
KLIATT - Maureen Griffin
The author, who writes about the treatment of children in poor countries, dedicates this Cocalero novel "To those we keep in cages." Twelve-year-old Diego is in the San Sebastian Women's Prison, Cochabamba, Bolivia, along with his mother and young sister. Families without much money to bribe guards languish for years for insignificant crimes. Diego can leave during the day, sometimes, to run errands for a small amount of money—he calls himself a taxi. His friend Mando, a little older, also looks for any job. The two are lured into working far from home in the cocaine trade. Diego is fortunate to escape after abuse, long labor, exposure to caustic chemicals, and a brief introduction to the drug. Sacred Leaf will be the sequel to Diego's adventures following his caring rescue by a rural family. 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. The Author's Note explains the unique place of the coca plant in Bolivian culture; the glossary is helpful as well.
School Library Journal
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 Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Groundwood Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.50(h) x (d)
730L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
jadac More than 1 year ago
I am a taxi is about a boy named Diego. His parents were put in prison for something neither of them did. Since both parents are in prison, he must live with them. When he loses his job as a taxi, running errands for women in prison, he gets dragged into a plan by his friend Mango to get tons of money! He soon learns they were hired to make cocoa past, to make cocaine. They realize that they are not going to get paid. Soon after the death of Mango, he must face the problems himself. If you like action this is the perfect book for you. I give this book four stars. It s a good book, but at times isn't clear what is happening.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Ianbianboy More than 1 year ago
I Am a Taxi is a well written realistic-fiction young adult novel. It’s about a boy named Diego who is in need of money. His parents got framed for something they didn’t do. He and his sister lived with their mom in prison but could come and go. He and his sister lived with their mom in prison He was supposed to watch after his little sister but instead did homework and lost track of her. He lost his job as a taxi because he lost track of his sister. A taxi is a person who runs errands for people in the prison. Diego’s friend Mando offered him a job in the jungle, he didn’t want to go at first, but he was desperate for a job. They both decided to stomp coca paste. Soon things got bad. They weren’t getting paid, and they were working the hardest. They had a risky plan, but it backfired on them. They got caught and Deigo was stuck there. I give it 5 stars because I understood the story and I saw the realistic fiction.It had great word chose but, the writing wasn’t always the greatest.
LeahM57 More than 1 year ago
I Am a Taxi is a well written realistic fiction story. It’s about a bright boy named Diego, who is desperately in need of money.His parents were sent to jail after being in possession or coca paste. However they never did anything, they just mistakenly sat down in the wrong seat. In the jail, Diego was suppose to watch after his younger sister but instead did homework. She wandered off and Diego went into panic mode. He sprints all over, but when the whole prison sees what he did, they reject him as a taxi, taxi’s someone who runs errands. Diego’s mistakes takes him to a dangerous jungle with his friend Mando. After awhile they realize stomping coca leaves into paste is to risky and illegal. A plan was created but was it to late after all? Their heart and courage keeps them going but sometimes that’s not enough. I give I Am a Taxi 5 stars because of the excitement it brings to one’s mind. This book was excellently written and keeps you hooked. Usually I strongly dislike the sequels, but the “Sacred Leaf” is perfect.
RavenD17 More than 1 year ago
I Am a Taxi is about a boy named Diego who lives in prison with his mother and sister. Diego’s job is to be a taxi. He does jobs for people and gets paid bolivianos. One day he loses his little sister, and he couldn’t find her. In the end, his sister was found, but his mother had to pay a fine. He goes with his friend and some guys to make Coca Paste. He thought the guys were good at first, but then he finds out they weren’t going to pay him, and they were going to make him work for a long time for free. When he gets to another Coca making place, and nobody is holding on to him, he runs into the jungle. Will he get caught? Will he survive? You’ll have to read the book to find out. I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars. I really enjoyed reading about Diego’s adventures. If you like books with action, adventure, and well written stories, this is the book for you! It’s the best 200 pages you’ll ever read!
buzzyCC More than 1 year ago
I am a Taxi is about a kid named Diego His home? A prison. His job? A “Taxi doing jobs for other prisoners. But what happens when he loses his job he gets a very different job making coca paste a part in cocaine,what will he do? I give it a 4 out of 5 because it throws you in The middle of the story at the beginning but it is well written and good
GracieGrules More than 1 year ago
I Am Taxi is about a brilliant boy named Diego. He shares a tiny prison cell with his mother and little sister. Life is tough. They wouldn’t even be there if it wasn’t for the cocoa paste hidden under their bus seats. Diego works in a prison as a “taxi” running errands for other prisoners and doing homework for rich kids for money. When Diego loses track of his little sister, he isn’t allowed to leave the prison. He loses his job as a taxi and worries about his family’s future and having enough money. His friend Mando convinces him to go to the jungle for a job where he claims they’ll make lots of money. When they get there, Diego realizes the jeopardy he and his friend are in. This realistic fiction tells a story about a boys life and hardships. Sacred Leaf is a sequel that is a must read to complete Diego’s adventure even though it doesn’t finish Diego’s life story. Rate: 4.5 This book is well written with lots of adventure. It is an excellent choice for anyone who enjoys realistic fiction, culture and the perseverance to succeed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This Book was exciting amazing and pefect!! I loved this book!!!