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9780888997364_cover Enlarge Cover
5 of 5
1 rating
list price: $9.95
also available: Hardcover eBook
published: Sep 2006

I Am a Taxi

by Deborah Ellis

reviews: 1
5 of 5
1 rating
list price: $9.95
also available: Hardcover eBook
published: Sep 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.

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

Describe how a narrator's or speaker's point of view influences how events are described.

Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.

About the Author

Deborah Ellis

DEBORAH ELLIS is the award-winning author of several books for kids and teens. She is best known for her novel The Breadwinner, which she wrote following her work at refugee camps in Afghanistan. She has also written on other serious issues affecting young people around the world, including drug use, poverty, HIV/AIDS, and war.


Author profile page >
Contributor Notes

Deborah Ellis is a member of the Order of Canada. She has won the University of California’s Middle East Book Award, Sweden’s Peter Pan Prize, the Governor General’s Award, and the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award. She is best known for her Breadwinner series, which has been published in twenty-five languages, with $2 million in royalties donated to Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan and Street Kids International. deborahellis.com

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
10 to 14
5 to 9
Reading age:
10 to 14
  • Short-listed, Alberta Children's Choice Award
  • Long-listed, OLA Golden Oak Award
  • Short-listed, Manitoba Young Reader's Choice Award
  • Winner, Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award
  • Long-listed, YALSA BBYA
  • Commended, CLA Book of the Year for Children Award
  • Long-listed, SYRCA Snow Willow Award
  • Commended, CCBC Our Choice (Starred Selection)
  • Commended, SSLI Honor Book
  • Commended, White Ravens
  • Commended, Cooperative Children's Book Center Choice
Editorial Reviews

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

...the strength of the book lies in the glimpse of a single individual struggling to exist in a society with limited options for escape.


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)

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

...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

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

— Vancouver Sun

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

— Reforma

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

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 sequel...to 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

"...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

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Reader Reviews

Canadian Children's  Book Centre
Librarian review

H I Am a Taxi (Cocalero Novels)

Diego’s family lives in prison, and he runs errands as a “taxi” to earn money. When that ends, he must consider another plan – one that takes him deep into the heart of the Bolivian jungle.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Canadian Children’s Book News. 2007.

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