Ninth Ward by Jewel Parker Rhodes
Summary from the inside left flap: Twelve-year old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. She doesn’t have a fancy house, like her uptown family, or lots of friends, like the other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mamma Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya’s visions show a powerful hurricane — Katrina — fast approaching, it’s up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Yah has given her to help them both survive the storm.
This book has been recommended for the Pikes Peak Region Battle of the Books for 2013-2014.
What I liked about the book: Lanesha is a strong, likable character. Rhodes provides colorful details about Lanesha and those around her. The story takes place right before and just after Hurricane Katrina. However, the story isn’t so much about the devastation wrought by the hurricane but about one young girl’s perseverance in the face of adversity. This book would be an excellent tool for a unit on how people react in the wake of disaster. It gives students the opportunity to put themselves in Lanesha’s place. The story does include some paranormal aspects – Mama Ya-ya can see into the future and Lanesha sees and talks with ghosts. However, this does not take away from the seriousness of the story, but rather adds an interesting trait to both characters. I think it would be interesting to have students read this book and Night of the Twisters by Ivy Ruckman and compare/contrast the stories.
What I didn’t like about the book: I really liked this book. I’m hard pressed to find anything negative about it. It is written from the point of view of a young girl which might cause some of my male students to shy away from it, but I think there is enough adventure in the story to overcome that one thing. I read a review by another librarian who stated that Ninth Ward is one of those books that teachers and librarians love and want all their students to read, but in reality would have little appeal to students. When I finished this book I immediately thought of a number of my students who would enjoy this book. That might be because they are like me – LOVE books of all kinds. Then again I might be mistaken. I will order for this for our library collection and I’m interested to see who does or doesn’t check it out.
Recommended for 3rd grade and up.
AR Book level: 3.3
Mrs. Archer’s rating: 4 of 5