Laura's Reviews > Ninth Ward

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
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's review
May 17, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 2011, children-s, bes12-13, middle-grade
Read in May, 2011

Ninth Ward is the story of Lanesha, a young African American middle school student living in New Orleans. After her teenaged mother died giving birth to her, Mama Ya-Ya took her in. Mama Ya-Ya is a little bit crazy, a little bit psychic, and full of love for the only child she has raised.

The characters are well-developed and Lanesha's problems are laid out when the real problem takes over the story. Hurricane Katrina is approaching New Orleans and Mama Ya-Ya knows that the storm isn't the real problem coming for the city. Rhodes builds tension by describing Mama Ya-Ya's failing health, a desperate plan to escape the rising water, and the chaos that consumes New Orleans.

While this book features middle school students, it is appropriate and clean enough for older elementary school students. Some reviewers have commented on the magical realism in the story. I felt that Mama Ya-Ya's gifts weren't presented as witchcraft or magic as much as they are descriptions of an eccentric older woman; Lanesha's ghosts are a way for her to connect with her mother and find comfort in a world that has largely abandoned her.


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