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Ninth Ward Kindle Edition

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Length: 215 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 5-8–Communicating with ghosts, including the spirit of her mother who died giving birth to her, is a gift that Lanesha, 12, has had for as long as she can remember. The girl's beloved caretaker, Mama Ya-Ya, a midwife and healer, has a gift that allows her to predict the future. When she begins to sense that a big storm is coming to their much-loved New Orleans neighborhood, both she and Lanesha must trust in their senses and in one another to survive. Lanesha is a wonderful character who exudes resilience and fortitude in the face of a catastrophe as well as a personal vulnerability in terms of her status as an orphan and an outsider. Words, numbers, and colors as seen through her eyes show the magic and wonder that exist in everyday things. The unique writing style even allows the unlikely combination of elderly Mama Ya-Ya's heady scents of Vicks Vapor Rub and Evening in Paris perfume to seem wonderful and inviting. Although the outcome of Hurricane Katrina is known, the clever writing allows the unavoidable tragedy to unfold in such a haunting and suspenseful manner that the extreme sense of foreboding and ultimate destruction is personalized and unforgettable. Heartbreak and hope are reflected in Lanesha's story, which will capture even reluctant readers due to the inventive storytelling and the author's ability to bring history to life.Margaret Auguste, Franklin Middle School, Somerset, NJ
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina is the setting for this tense novel that blends the drama of the catastrophic storm with magic realism. Twelve-year-old Lanesha’s teenage mother died while giving birth to her, and, because her mother’s wealthy uptown family won’t have anything to do with her, she is raised in the Ninth Ward by loving Mama Ya-Ya, 82, who feels like her “mother and grandmother both.” Born with a caul over her eyes, Lanesha is teased at school, but she is strengthened by her fierce caretaker’s devotion and by a teacher who inspires Lanesha to become an engineer and build bridges. Lanesha also has “second sight,” which includes an ability to see her mother’s ghost. As the storm nears and the call comes for mandatory evacuation, Mama Ya-Ya envisions that she will not survive, but Lanesha escapes the rising water in a small rowboat and even rescues others along the way. The dynamics of the diverse community enrich the survival story, and the contemporary struggle of one brave child humanizes the historic tragedy. Grades 5-8. --Hazel Rochman

Product Details

  • File Size: 346 KB
  • Print Length: 215 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (August 16, 2010)
  • Publication Date: August 16, 2010
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,213 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Jewell Parker Rhodes is the author of three children's books including Ninth Ward, Sugar, and Bayou Magic. Towers Falling, a new middle grade, will be published in 2016.

Jewell is also the author of six adult novels: Voodoo Dreams, Magic City, Douglass' Women, Season, Moon, and Hurricane; a memoir, Porch Stories: A Grandmother's Guide to Happiness; and two writing guides: Free Within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors, and The African American Guide to Writing and Publishing Non-Fiction.

Her work has been published in China, Korea, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Turkey, and the United Kingdom and in audio format and for NPR's "Selected Shorts." Her literary awards include: the American Book Award, the National Endowment of the Arts Award in Fiction, the Black Caucus of the American Library Award for Literary Excellence, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award for Outstanding Writing, two Arizona Book Awards, and a finalist citation for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award.

Ninth Ward has received a Parents' Choice Foundation Award and the Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award, among others. Sugar has received the Jane Addam's Children's Book Award and has been cited as a "notable children's book" by the American Library Association and as one of the "best children's book of the year" by Kirkus Reviews.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By M. Heiss on January 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I actually like this book. I was NOT expecting to like it, at all. The first pages open with a little girl born with a caul, a magical midwife tells her she has second sight, and she sees ghosts.

Groan... Could it get any worse?

In fact, it gets better. MUCH better. I have no reservations about my children reading this book.

Yes, there is a bit of an altar situation with Catholic saints and voodoo gods, and quite a few ghosts. Our family doesn't do ghosts. But it's good fiction, and the religion stuff is no weirder than the religion in "A Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

GREAT pro-school message. Being smart is what helps Lanesha survive the hurricane and flood. GREAT math teacher. GREAT neighbors and adults, and a respectful way of treating others. GREAT vocabulary.


A very good story about love, loss, survival and rebirth. The book's message about the flood is: It doesn't matter where the flood comes from. Sometimes, the flood just comes.

Parent notes: illegitimacy, abandonment by extended family, some abuse of animals, some bullying, one death by gunshot, ghosts, voodoo, no politics
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Angela of Color Me Purple on August 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
I just completed Jewell Parker Rhodes' latest book--her first written for young
people. Its Title--Ninth Ward. Its Setting--New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
Its focus--Lanesha, a twelve year old born with a caul covering her head and
face, who is connected to the spiritual world and her Mama Ya Ya. Through a
child's eyes we watch a neighborhood in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans
experience the arrival of Hurricane Katrina, the surge of the Mississippi River as
the levees give way, the destruction of a rich vibrant community made up of
people who have so little, but share what they have with each other. This is a
story of love, courage and strength as the ancestors encourage two young
children to have faith in themselves if they want to survive. Jewell Parker
Rhodes says that she wanted to grow up enough to write her first book for young
people--she has more than made up for making us wait so long by penning this
magnificent story for youngsters and oldsters, one that I will share with many. A
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In a novel for younger readers, Jewel Parker Rhodes tells the story of thirteen-year-old Lanesha, a girl who lives in New Orleans' Ninth Ward pre-Katrina with a grandmotherly lady she calls Mama Ya-Ya. The relationship between elderly woman and child, while not of blood, is one bound in spirit and love. With her roots in the old voodoo ways, Mama Ya-Ya combines a nurturing presence with the wisdom of her years; in fact, it was Mama Ya-Ya who delivered Lanesha when the girl's mother died in childbirth. As well as Mama Ya-Ya, it isn't uncommon for Lanesha to see ghosts, among them her mother, and others who wander the streets of New Orleans, a city with a particularly rich cultural history. As Katrina approaches, Mama Ya-Ya senses something more than a storm, though her weary soul cannot see clearly what is ahead. As the old lady dreams, Lanesha takes over, preparing for the hurricane, boarding windows, preparing food.

There is an almost allegorical sense of the old giving way to the new in this poignant tale, albeit with an uncertain future. An avid student who dreams of building bridges, Lanesha's curiosity is insatiable, but it is her compassion and bravery that will inspire young readers, the spiritual ties between generations and the capacity to entertain the extraordinary. The author clearly loves this city and its wealth of history and stories, however it may have been damaged by Katrina and its shameful aftermath. And she writes with the same fluid grace and turn of phrase that has distinguished her adult novels. Lanesha's world may have changed with Katrina's devastation, but she is truly a child of Mama Ya-Ya's heart, buoyed by her appetite to taste the world and her appreciation of others, real or imagined. Luan Gaines/2010.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Anne M. Perry on September 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book, Rhodes' first book for young people, is a masterpiece. Period. She understands New Orleans and the Ninth Ward culture, and writes about them with love and empathy for their lives while they wait for and experience Katrina. Any reader will finish the book with an honest perception of the threat and terror of hurricanes and floods, as well as a wish that the book would not end... Personally, I would like to have a follow-up book to "see" what happens to the two main characters.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Coissiere "The Tough Critic" VINE VOICE on January 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Everyone will agree Hurricane Katrina was a beast. Hearing or reading about the experience of an adult tugs on your sympathy side. But reading about the experience of a 12 year-old child will tug on your heartstrings and your tear ducts. In Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes, Lanesha tells of what her life was like before, during, and after Katrina. Even though this is a work of fiction, it is quite possible that someone in New Orleans lived it.

Lanesha lives with Mama Ya-Ya, the midwife that helped to bring her into the world. They have a deep connection to one another. They both have the gift to see ghosts. Mama Ya-Ya even knows things before they happen. Hurricane Katrina is an event she saw coming even before they classified it as a hurricane. Mama Ya-Ya is not a young woman, but she makes certain to instruct Lanesha on the things they will need to make it through the natural disaster. However, when Mama Ya-Ya's energy begins to drain, Lanesha has to think, plan, and prepare. She becomes the caregiver and decision maker.

Lanesha is a child wise beyond her years. Not many children would know what to do in the time of a crisis while keeping calm. That is where the story seems both realistic and unrealistic, causing me to think as a parent if I have prepared my children enough for any and everything. Mama Ya-Ya over the years had prepared Lanesha for whatever was placed in front of her.

Another part of Ninth Ward I found exciting was the setting. Ms. Rhodes made the location come to life as much as she did the actual human characters. I recommend this book to readers interested in Hurricane Katrina and those interested in ghosts.

The publisher provided a copy of the book for review purposes.

Jennifer Coissiere
APOOO BookClub
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