Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orlean’s Ninth Ward. She doesn’t have a fancy house like her uptown family or lots of friends like other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. Abandoned by her peers because of her ability to see spirits, Lanesha longs for connection despite the strong love of her adopted grandmother, Mama Ya-Ya. As hurricane Katrina approaches and her neighbours flee, Lanesha must stay and brace for a storm of epic proportions. As the levees break, Lanesha must find a way to survive the floods on her own…

Jewell Parker Rhodes, an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction, including Voodoo Dreams, Magic City, Douglass’ Women, Free Within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors, and The African American Guide to Writing and Publishing Nonfiction, is the Virginia G. Piper Chair in Creative Writing and artistic director of the Virginia G. Piper Center in Creative Writing at Arizona State University. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.

NINTH WARD, published in August of 2010,  was selected by School Library Journal as one of the Best Books of 2010.

I won NINTH WARD from  This website features new books and has recipes from the story to go along with it.  These recipes could be used at a book club discussion, for example.  The featured recipes with NINTH WARD are Lanesha’s Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting.  These were the cupcakes Mama Ya-Ya served Lanesha at her birthday. Also featured is Lanesha’s Lemonade.  By going to you can search for these recipes.

The story of Lanesha and Mama Ya-Ya grabbed me right away.  Of course, we all know what happens when Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans, but the author still gives me new glimpses of what it must have been like for families that stayed behind to fight the storm.  Her descriptions of the days after the hurricane broke my heart as Lanesha suffered through the toughest parts.

I think this is a great Young Adult novel and is an excellent teaching tool of how to be strong when adversity strikes, how other cultures live and about what is really important in the end.  Ghosts and seeing into the future were also a part of the story, and while I am not a believer in that, their part of the story was an interesting piece of Lanesha’s life.

I plan to donate my copy to our Middle School/High School and hope that the students/teachers add it to their reading list.

If you would like to learn more about the author, visit

I gave NINTH WARD 4 out of 5 stars and really thought it was an important story to be told.  Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of this book!

To purchase a copy of NINTH WARD, click the image below:

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