Ninth Ward

Gr 5—8—Hurricane Katrina is whirling toward New Orleans in this touching novel (Little, Brown, 2010) by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Twelve-year-old Lanesha is a confident loner in her Ninth Ward neighborhood. Other kids tend to avoid her because she has the sight—she sees ghosts—and casually ignores them. Lanesha concentrates on her studies. She loves math, words, her teachers, and above all things, midwife Mama Ya-Ya who took her in when her mother died giving birth. Lanesha has snooty light-skinned uptown relatives, but they abandoned her to the loving care of Mama Ya-Ya. Lanesha watches in amazement as her beloved Ninth Ward prepares for the storm of the century. Fortitude, a vocabulary word Lanesha relishes, will be necessary to see her through the storm. After Mama Ya-Ya dies, Lanesha must be brave and save herself and her best friend when the water begins to rise. Sisi Aisha Johnson, a gifted narrator, brings richness and texture to each character and her performance emanates with the humor, warmth, and grace of this fine story. This 2011 Coretta Scott King Honor Book is not to be missed.—Tricia Melgaard, Centennial Middle School, Broken Arrow, OK

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