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Cane Warriors


Moa, a fourteen-year-old slave, gets caught up in the most significant slave rebellion in Jamaican history, paying homage to freedom fighters all over the world.

$15.95 $11.97

What people are saying…

Winner of a 2021 Young Quills Award for Best Historical Fiction!

Short-listed for the 2022 Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Award!

“Wheatle brings the struggle of slavery in the Jamaican sugar cane fields to life . . . A refreshing and heartbreaking story that depicts both a real-life uprising against oppression and the innate desire to be free. Highly recommended.”
School Library Journal, STARRED Review

Shortlisted for the 2020 Caribbean Readers’ Awards (Best Young Adult Novel)!

Alex Wheatle is a finalist for the 2021 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature!

“Alex Wheatle departs from his award-winning contemporary novels for a superb foray into historical fiction . . . Wheatle’s characteristic kennings and coinages . . . heighten this intense, affecting story of courage, bloodshed and commitment to freedom at all costs.”
The Guardian (UK)

Cane Warriors centers the voice of the enslaved rather than white abolitionists. In this way, readers face the reality of enslaved people who fought for their own freedom.”
Worlds of Words, January 2021 Book of the Month recommendation

“I read it in one sitting. I simply could not put it down. Cane Warriors is such a powerful narrative of trauma and triumph . . . Wheatle celebrates the heroism that Tacky inspires. He tells the riveting story of 14-year-old Moa who bravely joins Tacky’s army.”
The Gleaner (Jamaica), recommended by Carolyn Cooper

“Set in 1760, Cane Warriors, the latest young adult novel by Alex Wheatle, is a fictional account of a key but often overlooked event in Jamaican history: Tacky’s Rebellion, a major revolt by enslaved Africans, planned via an island-wide conspiracy. In Wheatle’s narrative, a 14-year-old named Moa is caught up in the growing revolt, driven by a fierce desire for freedom and self-determination.”
Saturday Express (Trinidad & Tobago)

“Tension-filled and heart-stopping, a work of edgy brilliance that brims with existential fervor . . . Excellent.”
Kaieteur News (Guyana)

“This is a harrowing young adult novel; still, it is based on true history, and the story needs to be told. The brave freedom fighters of Tacky’s Rebellion should be remembered and honored . . . Recommended.”
Historical Novels Review

“When injustice is known, how can we answer with bravery?”
Books YA Love

“The risks that this child and the men in this book take in order to gain their freedom is both admirable and heart breaking at the same time. The desire to just be able to live without fear and to be able to just enjoy the basic acts of life.”
Reader Then Blogger

“Black Sheep stands tall with Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle, following Moa, an enslaved 14-year-old in 1760s Jamaica who is recruited by rebels to fight in the slave rebellion called Tacky’s War.”
Publishers Weekly, included in Sneak Previews for Fall 2020

Included in Publishers Weekly‘s Fall 2020 Children’s Announcements

“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, Academy Award–winning film director

“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, author and screenwriter

“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, author of Gangsta Rap

“Though it is a work of fiction, Cane Warriors is rooted in reality, the horrors of colonialism, and the subjugation of a people, which provides an educational experience for the reader with the turning of each crisp page . . . Cane Warriors serves as an inspiring but also sobering reminder that the fight for survival spans across centuries and is very much ongoing. And it is not about the survival of a lone individual, but rather the collective struggle, what that entails, and what it means.”
—Nadine White, news reporter, HuffPost UK

“Alex Wheatle is a master storyteller. He writes with urgency, passion, and the empathy we all need to wrestle with the realities of transatlantic slavery, bringing marginalized narratives straight out of the shadows, right into the frame. Every kid in the country needs to read this book.”
—Jeffrey Boakye, author of Black, Listed

“Terrific. A pacy, provocative ode to an important part of Jamaican history from one of our most versatile, trailblazing authors.”
—Irenosen Okojie, author of Nudibranch

“I love Alex and all he stands for in the world of literature.”
—Kerry Hudson, author of Lowborn

“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, author of My Name Is Why


Age level: 12+ | Interest Level: 8th Grade+ | Grade level: High School | Lexile Level: 700L | Guided Reading Level: Z+

Part of our Black Sheep imprint for young readers.


Moa is fourteen. The only life he has ever known is toiling on the Frontier sugarcane 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 as the day of the uprising approaches . . .

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

Read an interview with Alex Wheatle at the Guardian

Read a Q&A with Alex Wheatle at Deborah Kalb Books.

Listen to an interview with Alex Wheatle on the You’re Booked podcast

Book Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Published: 10/20/20
  • IBSN: 9781617758553
  • e-IBSN: 9781617758737
  • Hardcover
  • IBSN: 9781617759062


ALEX WHEATLE is the author of several best-selling books including the young adult novels Kemosha of the Caribbean, Cane Warriors, and Home Girl, the modern classic Brixton Rock, and the award-winning Crongton series. He is the subject of the historical drama film Alex Wheatle, which is part of filmmaker Steve McQueen’s lauded Small Axe anthology series. His body of work was a finalist for the 2021 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature and has won numerous awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. His latest work is Sufferah: The Memoir of a Brixton Reggae-Head.

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