Good shoes are hard to find. I'm not talking about the cute kind that you wear because you like the way they look. You know what I mean, the pair that has a time limit before it turns into a pumpkin and your feet break out in blisters. It's tough to find that pair that's honest to goodness comfortable to sink your toes into and wiggle around.
Good characters are like that too. When you come across a story with great inner dialogue and a character who you know in your gut is destined to shine, you just want to settle down and wiggle your toes around a bit. Twelve year old Lanesha in The Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes is just that sort of character. Raised by the midwife that birthed her, Lanesha has every right to be indignant with where life left her. Forgotten by her uptown relatives, the only life line she has is Mama Yaya, her guardian. But Lanesha is happy. She enjoys finding symbols in math, the Saturday morning breakfasts she and Mama Yaya cook up and the multi-colored gel pens she got for her birthday.
At the beginning, the reader sees a girl who's cautious to come out of her shell for the rest of the world. But as the story progresses, Lanesha finds strength within herself to make friends, to speak to her mother's ghost, and most of all to brave the Hurricane Katrina as it ravages her neighborhood.
I'd recommend this book highly for classroom discussion, there are so many current event connections here, and in addition the character herself is so accessible. But it's also a good book for any reader who feels like a loner, or needs to realize what strength they have within themselves. Sometimes, everyone needs to be reminded what kind of strength lies inside.