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Cane Warriors

Written by Alex Wheatle

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Cane Warriors Review

Adventure Stories Books of the Month Featured Books for 11+ readers Featured Books for 13+ readers Historical Fiction Star Books True Stories Personal Social Health Economic (PSHE) Personal Social Health Economic (PSHE) Personal Social Health Economic (PSHE)

Must-read real-life story of hope and heroism during a 1760 uprising of Jamaican slaves

Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 11-14 | Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2021 | Shortlisted for the Iris Award | Longlisted for the YA Jhalak Prize | Longlisted for the YA Diverse Book Award | Shortlisted for the Yoto Carnegie Medal 2022

Written with luminous, crackling style, Cane Warriors is an unforgettable account of Jamaican and British history that must be known, with an unforgettable narrator at its heart. In the words of fourteen-year-old Moa, “the hope of our dreamland churned in my belly,” a powerful statement that pulses through this extraordinary story of Tacky’s War.


Based on a revolutionary real-life 1760 Jamaican slave rebellion, a visceral sense of the atrocities Moa and his fellow field slaves are subjected to is evoked from the start. Their bodies are lashed and “roasted by a brutal sun”, Moa hasn’t seen his house-slave mama for three years, his papa lost an arm in mill machinery, and his friend Hamaya fears the day predatory white men will “come for me.”


Spurred by the death of Miss Pam who “drop inna da field and lose her life”, and led by Miss Pam’s brother Tacky, who “trod like a king” and whose brain “work quick like Anancy”, the uprising hinges on the freedom fighters killing the plantation master. While Moa is glad to be given a pivotal role in the rebellion, he fears that success and escape will mean he’ll never see his parents or Hamaya again - his conflict is palpable, but he’s set on being a cane warrior. Outside the plantation, Moa’s world is immediately transformed, with his life as a freedom fighter evoked in fine detail (I loved the depiction of him tasting creamy, fleshy sweetsop for the first time). There are bloody battles ahead, executed in the presence of Akan gods, and driven by brotherhood and hope for that dreamland. Lucidly lyrical and raw, I cannot praise Cane Warriors enough. 


Find out more about the YA Book Prize including all the shortlisted titles.



Joanne Owen

Cane Warriors Synopsis

Nobody free till everybody free.

Moa is fourteen. The only life he has ever known is toiling on the Frontier sugar cane plantation for endless hot days, fearing the vicious whips of the overseers. Then one night he learns of an uprising, led by the charismatic Tacky. Moa is to be a cane warrior, and fight for the freedom of all the enslaved people in the nearby plantations. But before they can escape, Moa and his friend Keverton must face their first great task: to kill their overseer, Misser Donaldson. Time is ticking, and the day of the uprising approaches . . .

Irresistible, gripping and unforgettable, Cane Warriors follows the true story of Tacky's War in Jamaica, 1760.

Cane Warriors Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading4Kids expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can click here to read the full reviews.

This is a fast-paced novel about a slave uprising in Jamaica, told from the perspective of a young boy caught up in the brutal violence as their plantation overseers are defeated. Full review

Issie Ford (Age 13)

Cane warriors uses language beautifully. I loved the blend of standard English and dialect. Full review

George Daniels (Age 12)

Cane Warriors was an enjoyable and interesting read which enforced a moral story while also being fun and exciting. Full review

Seren Daly (Age 13)

Cane Warriors Press Reviews

Alex Wheatle writes from a place of honesty and passion with the full knowledge and understanding that change can only happen through words and actions - Steve McQueen, Oscar-winning director of 12 Years a Slave

The importance of this book cannot be overstated. Alex Wheatle takes the truth, and creates fiction to illuminate that truth. He too is a warrior. A word warrior. I saw my ancestors in this book, and now I know that Alex and I really are brothers.  -- Benjamin Zephaniah

Alex Wheatle is the real deal; he writes with heart and authenticity, books that make you laugh and worry and cry and hold your breath.  It's a pity there's only one of him  -- Kit de Waal

This is a vital part of British and Jamaican history brought vividly to life. Alex Wheatle has reclaimed our ancestors and given them the voice they were denied  -- Catherine Johnson

Alex Wheatle is an inspirer. He sheds light in dark places so that we might see the unseen and hear the unheard. He is a vital writer. He is a prince among men. Long may he reign  -- Lemn Sissay

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781839131127
Publication date: 07/10/2021
Publisher: Andersen Press Ltd
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781783449873
Publication date: 01/10/2020
Publisher: Andersen Press Ltd
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781783449873
Publication date: 1st October 2020
Author: Alex Wheatle
Publisher: Andersen Press Ltd
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 192 pages
Suitable for: 11+ readers, 13+ readers
Genres: Adventure Stories, Historical Fiction, True Stories, Personal Social Health Economic , Personal Social Health Economic , Personal Social Health Economic
Recommendations: Books of the Month, Reviewed by Children, Star Books
Collections: Diverse Voices - 80 Children's Books that Celebrate Difference, Our favourite children's books of 2020,

About Alex Wheatle

Alex Wheatle is the best-selling author of several books including the modern classic Brixton Rock, and the multi-award winning Crongton series. He was awarded an MBE for his services to literature in 2008, has been twice nominated for the Carnegie Medal, and has won numerous awards including Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. He lives in London.

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