In 2005 Hurricane Katrina devastated the U.S. Gulf Coast. I will never forget seeing news footage of people stranded on their New Orleans, Louisiana rooftops awaiting rescue by helicopter. One of the hardest hit areas of New Orleans was the Ninth Ward. Ninth Ward is Jewell Parker Rhodes first book for children, and it is about Lanesha, a twelve-year-old girl, and her attempt to survive the storm with her 82-year-old guardian Mama Ya-Ya and her classmate/friend TaShon.
While the story's plot focus is on the hurricane, it is much more than a literal storm survival story. Mama Ya-Ya, Lanesha, and TaShon are all society outsiders who are characterized by an amazing inner strength that allows them to be survivors of something arguably greater than a category 5 hurricane; they are survivors of life.
I recommend this book to 3rd-6th grade readers who enjoy realistic fiction, survival stories, natural disasters, and heart-warming, inspirational stories.