Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ship of Souls by Zetta Elliott


When Dmitri, an eleven-year-old bird-watcher and math whiz, loses his mother to breast cancer, he is taken in by Mrs. Martin, an elderly white woman. Unaccustomed to the company of kids his own age, D struggles at school and feels like an outcast until a series of unexpected events changes the course of his life.

First, D is asked to tutor the school’s basketball star, Hakeem, who will get benched unless his grades improve. Against the odds, the two boys soon realize they have something in common: they are both taunted by kids at school, and they both have a crush on Nyla, a beautiful but fierce eighth-grade girl. Then Nyla adopts D and invites him to join her entourage of “freaks.” Finally, D discovers an injured bird and brings it home from the park.

D is stunned when the strange bird speaks to him and reveals that she is really a guiding spirit that has been held hostage by ghost soldiers who died in Brooklyn at the start of the American Revolution. As Nuru’s chosen host, D must carry her from Brooklyn to the African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan, but the ghost soldiers won’t surrender their prize without a fight.

With the help of Hakeem and Nyla, D battles the Nether Beings who lurk underground, feeding off centuries of rage and pain. But it takes an unexpected ally to help the trio reach the ship that will deliver the innocent souls of the dead back to Nuru’s realm. An urban fantasy infused with contemporary issues and historical facts, Ship of Souls by Zetta Elliott will keep teen readers gripped until the very end.


First, it was great seeing a diverse cast of characters.  Not only are they friends but the three of them also work together to overcome adversity.  This compelling urban fantasy young adult novel is brimming with historic details and loaded with suspense.  The interaction between the characters is realistic, even if the bird is fantasy.  Although the story was a bit short for my taste, the author did tie up all loose ends.  Unfortunate for this reader, the ending was too rushed but for young adults, who the novel is geared for, it may be just right.  If you're looking for a young adult fantasy novel, pick up Ship of Souls! A quick entertaining read that I'm confident most young readers will enjoy.


Born in Canada, Zetta Elliott has spent the past fourteen years studying, writing, and teaching in the U.S. Her poetry has been published in the Cave Canem anthology, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, Check the Rhyme: an Anthology of Female Poets and Emcees, and Coloring Book: an Eclectic Anthology of Fiction and Poetry by Multicultural Writers. Her novella, Plastique, was excerpted in T Dot Griots: an Anthology of Toronto's Black Storytellers, and her essays have appeared in The Black Arts Quarterly, thirdspace, WarpLand and Rain and Thunder. She won the 2005 Honor Award in Lee & Low Books' New Voices Contest, and her picture book, Bird, was published in October 2008. Her first play, Nothing but a Woman, was a finalist in the Chicago Dramatists' Many Voices Project (2006). Her fourth full-length play, Connor's Boy, was staged in January 2008 as part of two new play festivals: in Cleveland, OH as part of Karamu House's R. Joyce Whitley Festival of New Plays ARENAFEST, and in New York City as part of Maieutic Theatre Works' Newborn Festival. She currently lives in Brooklyn.

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1 comment:

The old grey donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, "Why?" and sometimes he thought, "Wherefore?" and sometimes he thought, "Inasmuch as which?" and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about.

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