Ninth Ward | Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ninth Ward was published two years ago, but has just been released in Australia.

Jewell Parker Rhodes has written a number of adult novels, but this is her first foray into junior fiction. She has picked a doozy of a topic – Hurricane Katrina.

Lanesha is a twelve year old girl living with her Mama Ya-Ya in New Orleans. Rhodes captures the time and place beautifully, weaving a story of magical realism and survival even as Katrina does her worst.

The images from the aftermath of Katrina were horrific and Rhodes has done a superb job to get inside those images and make them accessible for young readers. She describes the horror and fear, but also the hope, determination and will to survive that inspire us all.

I couldn’t put this book down. I devoured it in one sitting. It’s not often that a book so obviously trying to do something worthy is also so readable.

I admit that the cover is not very inviting and I wish they had gone with the cover on the right that I found on google, but the slightly dowdy cover hides a wonderfully rich story that I recommend for mature 10+ readers.

Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. She doesn’t have a fancy house like her uptown family or lots of friends like the other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya’s visions show a powerful hurricane–Katrina–fast approaching, it’s up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Ya has given her to help them both survive the storm.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Ghost Boys and Towers Falling, Ninth Ward is a deeply emotional story about transformation and a celebration of resilience, friendship, and family–as only love can define it.

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