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Cane Warriors

Written by Alex Wheatle

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Cane Warriors Review

Adventure Stories Featured Books for 11+ readers Featured Books for 13+ readers Historical Fiction True Stories 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. 

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.

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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

It's passionate, important and Wheatle's best novel yet -- Children's Book of the Week - Books of the Year, The Times

A vivid and unforgettable fight for freedom, seen through the eyes of 14-year-old Moa, Wheatle's tale gives voice to those seldom heard - Books of the Year, Observer

Superb ... [An] affecting story of courage, bloodshed and commitment to freedom at all costs - Guardian

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

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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: 9781839131127
Publication date: 7th October 2021
Author: Alex Wheatle
Publisher: Andersen Press Ltd
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 208 pages
Suitable for: 11+ readers, 13+ readers
Genres: Adventure Stories, Historical Fiction, True Stories, Personal Social Health Economic , Personal Social Health Economic
Collections: 40 Children's Books Celebrating Black History & Culture, Best Children's Books of 2021,

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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