Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ninth Ward

Jewell Parker Rhodes brings the events of Hurricane Katrina to childrens literature. Lanesha is twelve, growing up with Mama Ya-Ya after her mother dies in childbirth. While Mama Ya-Ya is not a blood relative, she loves and cares for Lanesha like her own child. The two of them make an interesting pair. Lanesha can see the spirits of the dead, and Mama Ya-Ya is a midwife, able to predict the future. When Mama Ya-Ya's predictions about Hurrican Katrina bring her great worry, Lanesha looks to her mother's spirit to reassure her. However, no reassurance can be given about Hurricane Katrina, as the storm picks up speed and force as it nears New Orleans. Lanesha and Mama Ya-Ya weather the storm only to then be confronted with flooding, forcing them and their neighbor boy, Tashon (who has returned after losing his parents in the Superdome) to the roof as they wait for help.

Ninth Ward is beautifully written, recreating the devastating events of Hurricane Katrina. Rhodes has managed to bring this event to life for children - doing so by writing of the loss Lanesha experiences in a way young readers will understand and not be overwhelmed by.

While the cover doesn't do much for me - and I don't think most kids will find it appealing, either, I am hoping this is one that my students can look beyond the cover to enjoy the story inside.

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