By: Jewell Parker Rhodes
Published: July 12, 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Several years ago, I read Jewell Parker Rhodes book on Hurricane Katrina. It too was written for middle-grade readers as a way to understand what happened during the disaster in New Orleans. NINTH WARD focused on a young girl who lived in Louisana and was tragically affected by Katrina. I thought it was very well done and it left an impact on me.
Parker Rhodes is back with another book perfect for middle-grade readers to try to understand the impact that 9/11 had on adults when the children growing up now, 15 years later (at the time this was written) were not even born yet. None of our children remember the actual event, but it is something we have talked about and watched news features about each year since it happened. As we are coming up on the 16th anniversary of the day America was attacked, this book might be a good way to approach a conversation with your child about what happened and how to understand it.
In this fictional account, Deja doesn’t understand why her father is constantly in bed, with a headache, or angry. He no longer works which means her mom has to work even more hours. Deja is often responsible for caring for her younger siblings and they now live in a homeless shelter which is embarrassing and awful. It’s the first day of 5th Grade and she’s in a new school. Deja puts on her tough outer exterior and decides she isn’t going to be nice to anybody in order to protect herself. Everyone else has a lunch box or money at lunch time, but instead, Deja decides to roam the halls. She has no friends…until a couple of kids in her class extend an olive branch. At first, Deja refuses to accept their offer of friendship, but then eventually Sabeen and Ben become her family as well as her teacher, Miss Garcia. All of the teachers are working together to teach about “our history, that’s it’s alive, and where we are from”. Part of this has to do with the attack on 9/11 and Deja doesn’t understand why it’s important to learn about that one day and why her dad is so upset that her school is talking about it.
Deja tells the story and her voice is realistic and full of emotion. I can totally imagine her feelings of frustration with the school, her new friends, her father, and the other families at the shelter. I understand her unwillingness to trust new people and relationships and her misunderstandings of what is going on with her dad. If nothing else, Deja’s story is a reminder for us to be open and honest with our kids, encouraging conversations about what is happening in the news, in our schools, in our communities, and the world around us. Children aren’t dumb. They hear things at school, on the TV or radio, or from their friends. The best way to ease their fears is to be honest and open about what is happening. Once that happened for Deja, life became much easier for her and her family.
Jewell Parker Rhodes knows how to get into a child’s mind and access their fears and frustrations. Children will be able to identify and empathize with Deja and her friends. Talking about disasters can be difficult, but with a story like TOWERS FALLING or NINTH WARD, you can remind children that there is still good in the world and we can always have hope.
As a side note:
I won this book through Book Club Cookbook. This site features books that would make good book club choices (for children or adults) and features recipes to go along with them to be served along with the discussion. The featured recipe for this book is Jewell Parker Rhodes Pistachio Baklava which is served when Deja visits Sabeen’s home. See the recipe, HERE.
|Jewell Parker Rhodes – source|
Jewell Parker Rhodes has always loved reading and writing stories. Born and raised in Manchester, a largely African-American neighborhood on the North Side of Pittsburgh, she was a voracious reader as a child. She began college as a dance major, but when she discovered there were novels by African Americans, for African Americans, she knew she wanted to be an author. She wrote six novels for adults, two writing guides, and a memoir, but writing for children remained her dream.
Now Jewell has published four children’s books: Ninth Ward, Sugar, Bayou Magic, and Towers Falling. Her fifth, Ghost Boys, will be released in spring of 2018. She’s also published six adult novels, two writing guides, and a memoir. When she’s not writing, she’s visiting schools to talk about her books with the kids who read them, or teaching writing at Arizona State University, where she is the Piper Endowed Chair and Founding Artistic Director of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing.
Jewell has received numerous honors including: the American Book Award, the National Endowment of the Arts Award in Fiction, the Black Caucus of the American Library Award for Literary Excellence, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award for Outstanding Writing, and two Arizona Book Awards. Ninth Ward was named a Coretta Scott King Honor Book, a Notable Book for a Global Society, and a Today Show Al’s Book Club for Kids Selection. Her work has been published in China, Korea, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Turkey and the United Kingdom, and reproduced in audio for NPR’s “Selected Shorts. For more, visit her website, HERE.
I will be linking up this review on Booking Mama’s regular Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. This is a place for bloggers to share posts related to children’s and YA books. You will find spotlights, reviews, and sometimes even giveaways by clicking HERE, every Saturday.
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