Born with a caul, 12-year-old Lanesha can see and sometimes communicate with spirits, and her guardian, former midwife Mama Ya-Ya, has dreams and visions that foretell the future. Their exquisitely happy, though poor, life in the New Orleans Ninth Ward is disrupted by news of a powerful storm approaching. Mama Ya-Ya knows it will get bad, but she has no means to get Lanesha out of the city. Knowing she herself will soon die, Mama Ya-Ya decides to wager that Â Lanesha's talents, both her supernatural skills and her more commonplace pluck and creativity, will see the young girl and her friend TaShon through Hurricane Katrina safely. The two children must confront not only the intense storm and Mama Ya-Ya's death but rapidly rising flood waters to survive. Rhodes's characters are likable and her story gripping. Unfortunately, though, romanticized depictions such as this one threaten to undermine our collective sense of the true plight of pre- and post-Katrina Ninth Ward residents. A good title for discussion when balanced with historical accounts of Katrina and her aftermath.Â (Fiction. 10-14)Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
With a mix of magical and gritty realism, Rhodes's (Voodoo Dreams) first novel for young readers imagines Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding through the eyes of resourceful 12-year-old Lanesha. Lanesha lives with Mama Ya-Ya, an 82-year-old seer and midwife who delivered Lanesha and has cared for her since her teenage mother died in childbirth. Living in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Lanesha is viewed as an unusual child (she was born with a caul and is able to see ghosts) and is ostracized at school. Lanesha finds strength in Mama Ya-Ya's constant love and axioms of affection and reassurance ("When the time's right... the universe shines down love"). The story becomes gripping as the waters rise and Lanesha, with help from a young neighbor and her mother's ghostly presence, finds a way to keep body and soul together. The spare but vivid prose, lilting dialogue, and skilled storytelling brings this tragedy to life; the powerful sense of community Rhodes evokes in the Ninth Ward prior to the storm makes the devastation and the hardships Lanesha endures all the more powerful. Ages 10-up. (Aug.)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
Gr 5-8--Communicating with ghosts, including the spirit of her mother who died giving birth to her, is a gift that Lanesha, 12, has had for as long as she can remember. The girl's beloved caretaker, Mama Ya-Ya, a midwife and healer, has a gift that allows her to predict the future. When she begins to sense that a big storm is coming to their much-loved New Orleans neighborhood, both she and Lanesha must trust in their senses and in one another to survive. Lanesha is a wonderful character who exudes resilience and fortitude in the face of a catastrophe as well as a personal vulnerability in terms of her status as an orphan and an outsider. Words, numbers, and colors as seen through her eyes show the magic and wonder that exist in everyday things. The unique writing style even allows the unlikely combination of elderly Mama Ya-Ya's heady scents of Vicks Vapor Rub and Evening in Paris perfume to seem wonderful and inviting. Although the outcome of Hurricane Katrina is known, the clever writing allows the unavoidable tragedy to unfold in such a haunting and suspenseful manner that the extreme sense of foreboding and ultimate destruction is personalized and unforgettable. Heartbreak and hope are reflected in Lanesha's story, which will capture even reluctant readers due to the inventive storytelling and the author's ability to bring history to life.--Margaret Auguste, Franklin Middle School, Somerset, NJ[Page 110]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.