Every accolade that Jewell Parker Rhodes has received for NINTH WARD is well-deserved. Her heroine, 12 year-old Lanesha, has talent, magic and love, and she will need all three to survive the days following Hurricane Katrina. Lanesha’s caregiver, Mama Ya-Ya, has raised her well and it has prepared her for the upcoming tragedy, and Lanesha’s ghosts tell her that the hurricane will be fine, yet the ghosts still feel like a ban omen. Of course the reader knows that it wasn’t the hurricane that was the problem. It was what came after.

With minimal words, Rhodes tells a monumental story about an American tragedy that will leave you breathless. This should be required reading in every American middle school.