Each chapter in this lovely middle school novel is a day in the life of 12-year-old Laneesha and her Mama Ya-Ya in the week before Hurricane Katrina. The reader steps into Laneesha’s warm neighborhood in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, feels the terror of the impending storm, and sees the resilience of residents.
The novel is so beautifully written that the fact that Laneesha and her Mama Ya-Ya can see ghosts seems quite natural–and is an effective way of showing how the power of ancestors and history helped Ninth Ward residents survive. It is also made crystal clear that the cause of the massive destruction was not the natural storm but the Army Corps of Engineer’s levees. (This point is also made in the new documentary film The Big Uneasy by Harry Shearer of The Simpsons. While too long for classroom use, excerpts of the whistleblower from the Army Corps of Engineers can raise questions about public safety beyond New Orleans.)
After reading Ninth Ward, students will want to know more about New Orleans and will hope that Rhodes writes more young adult novels.
ISBN: 9780316043076 | Published by Little Brown.