Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes

What a lovely, heart-breaking little poem of a book.  Lanesha lives in New Orleans with Mama Ya-Ya, the elderly midwife who took her in when her own teen mother died in childbirth.  Lanesha loves math, wants to be an engineer, and is happy with her life and her neighborhood.  This, despite being ostracized at school and abandoned by her mother's compartively wealthy relatives, who live Uptown. 

Also, she sees ghosts.  But that's not really what the book is about, so please do not be distracted by the seeing of dead people.

Before Hurricane Katrina hits, Mama Ya-Ya sees signs that it is going to be bad.  But she and Lanesha have no car and no money to leave the city.  So they prepare as best they can, and wait.  Lanesha has to be braver than she ever thought she could be in order to survive.

I admit, I have not read any of the Newberry nominees this year.  Still, I can only assume that Ninth Ward was not nominated for a Newberry because it takes place after the Great Depression.  (Seriously, can a contemporary children's novel catch a break these days?  I think the kids get it about the Depression.  Times were tough!)  I'd recommend this book to just about any 4th-7th grader, but especially to bookish girls.  It's a beaut.

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