Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes

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Hurricane Katrina is coming and Lanesha has to get herself and Mama Ya-Ya ready for the storm and for what follows.

Rhodes, Jewell Parker. Ninth Ward. Scholastic, 2010. 217 pages. Paperback. $4.99, ISBN 978-0-545-48955-3


Ninth Ward is a section of New Orleans, eight miles from Uptown. Lanesha’s family lives in Uptown but Lanesha never sees them. Lanesha’s mother died giving birth to her. Lanesha is twelve, loves school, thinks she might be an engineer when she grows up, and can see ghosts.

“Mama Ya-Ya says my family is scared of me. ‘Everybody in Louisiana knows there be spirits walking this earth. All kinds of ghosts you can’t see, not unless you want to. But you, child, you see them. You’ve got the sight. It’s grace to see both worlds,’ she says as we wash our birthday dishes, sticky with bits of jambalaya.

     ‘Better you be an orphan, your family thinks. Better crazy Mama Ya-Ya raises you,’ she says, sucking air through her false teeth. ‘Fine. I’m old school. Don’t care nothin’ about folks who dishonor traditions as old as Africa. I’ll be your mother and grandmother both.’”

Mama Ya-Ya is 82 years old. She can see things too. She teaches Lanesha to always look for the signs and she teaches her what the signs mean.

There is a storm coming. Mama Ya-Ya can see it but there’s something else coming too. Everyone has been told to evacuate or go to the Super Dome. Lanesha and Mama Ya-Ya don’t have a car or money so they have to stay put. Lanesha has to prepare for the storm and look after Mama Ya-Ya. What will happen? What is coming in addition to the storm? What about the neighbors and neighborhood in the Ninth Ward?

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Kindle Edition


English: Ninth Ward, New Orleans, LA, 9-16-05 ...

English: Ninth Ward, New Orleans, LA, 9-16-05 — This neighborhood remains flooded two weeks after the storm came through. The foul smelling flood water is contaminated with petrol chemicals, house hold chemicals and biological hazards. MARVIN NAUMAN/FEMA photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


2010 Coretta Scott King Honor Author Award

2010 Parents Choice Foundation Gold Award

2010 Al Roker “Today Show” Book Club Selection

Best Fiction of 2010, School Library Journal

2011 Jane Addams Honor Book Award for Older Children (Jane Addams Peace Association)

2011 Honor Books. Judy Lopez Memorial Awards of Excellence in Children’s Literature

2011 International Reading Association Notable Books for a Global Society

2011-2012 The Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award, Master List

Finalist, Best Fiction for Middle Grade Readers,

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Jewell Parker Rhodes Website

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© Chris Peeler 2013

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