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Ninth Ward: Rhodes, Jewell Parker: 9780316043083: Books

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes


Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives with her loving caretaker, Mama Ya-Ya, in a historically Black part of New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. Lanesha does not have many nice things in life but she has a dog, fiercely loyal friends, and family that make her happy. When Hurricane Katrina devastates New Orleans, Lanesha experiences tragedies and happiness while trying to return to normal life.


As a teenager, I enjoyed reading this book written from Lanesha’s point of view. Although Lanesha is 12 years old, her character is relatable for older readers. Lanesha’s struggle to return to safety is the main plot, but the setting and references to history and black culture help the reader learn more about this difficult time and Black culture. While there are several sad moments in the book, there are also uplifting moments showing Lanesha’s intelligence, courage and bravery. Overall, I highly recommend this book as an interesting way to learn about Hurricane Katrina and the impact on Black communities through the narrative of a child.

Discussion Questions:

  • What is an ordinary day like in the Ninth Ward? How does it compare to an ordinary day in your own neighborhood?
  • What is special about Lanesha? What gifts do you have that are unique in your family or neighborhood?
  • Why does Lanesha get involved when there is a fight? How would you handle bullies in your school or neighborhood?
  • Why doesn’t Lanesha leave New Orleans when the hurricane is coming? Why do some people stay while others evacuate?
  • How do they survive the flood? How does Lanesha save the day with her mathematical thinking?
  • What would you do if Coronado flooded? Where would you go?