Picture
I usually make it a practice not to read any literature meant for an audience younger than seventeen years of age because I tend to judge it too harshly. However, I received this book at a conference over a year ago, and was intrigued with the plotline since it was written about Hurricane Katrina (2005). 

Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in the Ninth Ward with Mama Ya-Ya, her elderly guardian ever since her mother died giving birth to her. As the story progresses, the reader learns that Mama Ya-Ya has "the sight" that allows her to sense the fast approach of Hurricane Katrina. As citizens in the Ninth Ward prepare for the hurricane, Mama Ya-Ya's visions grow worse, and the reader learns that many of them didn't refuse to flee because of ignorance; they didn't flee because they couldn't afford hotels and gas.  Unfortunately, no one was prepared for the devastation that hit New Orleans that day. 

In an eloquent writing style, Rhodes does a superb job of using imagery that creates an understanding of the fear that ran throughout the Ninth Ward as Hurricane Katrina hit and the flood waters rose. She humanizes the people who lived in that part of New Orleans and shows that many of them had nothing and nowhere to go. In a land of plenty, it's often easy to forget about the ones who have barely enough. 

Although this book is about Hurricane Katrina, it's told from the perspective of a twelve-year-old girl. In addition, it's fictive writing, which means that it takes a real-life event and creates details that may or may not be completely accurate in an effort to tell a descriptive story. Although I enjoyed reading about Mama Ya-Ya's mysticism since it is an important aspect of Southern culture around New Orleanes, others may be turned off by the fantastical elements within this text. Basically, if you're looking for a nonfiction account of Hurricane Katrina, you won't want to read this one, but if you're looking for another creative perspective, then give it a try.

  

 
Picture
Award winning author Russell Freedman weaves a mesmerizing tale of two men who seemed unlikely friends, and how their mutual drive for the abolition of slavery brought them together. With  painstaking detail and historical photographs, the reader sees famous, historical characters from the Civil War era come to life on the page. 

The book begins with Douglass waiting in the White House foyer to speak with President Lincoln. As he waits to "lay the complaints of his people at the president's door," the story flashes back between the two men's lives to show their rise to power. Although one man was Black and another man was White, they shared striking commonalities in their acquisition of an education as well as political ideals. Although they didn't always agree, and Douglass could be one of Lincoln's greatest critics, their last moments together were as friends who shared a mutual respect. 

I loved this book, which is saying a lot since I despise reading nonfiction. Ever since I was a child, I shied away from autobiographies and biographies because they were disconnected, dry, and dull. I could, honestly, care less what someone did 100 years ago. However, I couldn't put this book down. I read it in an hour, and I immediately showed it to my eight-year-old daughter and told her that she needs to read it because it does such a great job of humanizing the events of the Civil War and the people who were affected.

The book ends with Lincoln's assassination, and his final gift to Douglass. I have to admit that there were moments in this text that moved me to tears because of the struggles that people have faced and the hope that these two men instilled. They were, and are, two great examples for honoring each other as humans, first and foremost.

Ages: 9-12 years
Available June 19, 2012