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.