This book is definitely a keeper in our house. I am excited to share it with my own 11 year old son. With only 120 pages, it is a fairly short read, but excellent for the younger reader. Interesting concepts and turns of events keeps the reader focused and excited to know what happens next. Key concepts are easy to follow, even for younger readers. They might, however, need help with understanding a few concepts if they are not accustomed to some cultural and religious concepts.
Told in first person, I felt that the reader gets a pretty good grasp on D’s character. Some of the issues D faces are not usual for most kids, but the way his story is told I feel that readers would be able to understand his hardships even if they have not personally experienced them. It actually gives room for the reader to ponder what it would be like to be in D’s shoes.
I would recommend this story to kids between the ages of 10-14.
Eleven old Dmitri, who simply goes by D, is forced into foster care after his mother dies of breast cancer. Luckily, he is quickly taken in by Mrs. Martin, an elderly woman who has taken care of foster children for many, many years. Transplanted into a new school, D does his best to fit into a place that does not have room for a lanky math genius. Soon, however, he gets his social foot into the door when he is asked to tutor the basketball star of the school, Hakeem, and when a girl named Nyla takes D under her wing.
D is really into bird watching. One day he stumbles across an odd bird who D thought was injured. Nuru, the bird, is actually a guiding spirit who was held captive by ghost soldiers. Now that she is free, she has chosen D as her host to help her guide innocent souls back to her realm. D’s adventure to help Nuru and the wandering souls is filled with danger as the Nether Beings are constantly trying to recapture Nuru and keep her from her task.
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.