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3.7 out of 5 stars
22
3.7 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 20 June 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a wonderful story and I don't understand why the author chose to write it as a novella. The plot had so much potential that it's a shame it was cut short before it really got going.

The main character, Dmitri, or `D', is a foster child, and the first half of the story focuses on D's attempts to settle into a new life with his foster mother. This brings its own problems of life without parents and trying to be accepted in a new school. He is unexpectedly befriended by cool but kooky Nyla and the school's basketball superstar and heartthrob, Keem.

Keem has his own problems to face as a Muslim in post-911 America while Nyla - pierced and fierce - gives D the friendship he desperately needs.

The story then takes a strange turn when we are suddenly thrown into a fantastical, magical tale. Here, the three protagonists fight evil to save hundreds of lost souls who have languished in the depths of New York for centuries. This part of the story is also well told, focusing on the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan, a graveyard for hundreds of free and enslaved Africans, which was discovered in 1991.

It feels as if there are two disparate parts to this story; both would work well as individually told tales. The fantasy part about the African Burial Ground which also includes the American Revolutionary War as a backdrop, uses an important part of American history on which to base the story, and it would have been great to expand this further.

Overall, I enjoyed this story very much. It was well-written, thoughtful and original. Just a shame that, at 118 pages, it felt pretty rushed and seemed to gallop through to the end.
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VINE VOICEon 7 June 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A short book (124 pages) aimed at older children and young adults, this is D's (Dimitri's) story about the ghosts/souls of black American slaves in New York. D, a black child, has been left alone when his mother dies from cancer, and he is fostered by an elderly white foster mother. He's bright, a maths whizz kid, but considered a bit of a freak. But at his new school he makes two new friends - Nyla, a hard faced girl who has travelled the world with a military father, and Hakeem, a muslim who is going to be big in basketball. When it becomes clear that the three are dealing with something bigger than all of them, the adventure begins.

I was not particularly taken with the style of writing, but I believe that is because it was written to appeal to readers of 10 plus, but also to listeners from around age 8. So it does seem rather niaive. But it's easy to read, and the story grips and takes you with it. I am sure it was written with schools in mind, for it seems a good teaching tool, and the discussion topics at the back of the book (which of course I didn't see until the end) confirm that. Whilst this would probably be more interesting for American readers, based on a chunk of New York's history I knew nothing about; it does stand alone as an adventure story with a touch of magic built in. If it does no more than make a child eager to learn about this historic subject, it will be worth it, and a good starting place is to google the African Burial Ground National Monument.
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VINE VOICEon 31 August 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a fantasy novel set in New York. D is a foster child having lost his mum to cancer, and never knowing his dad. One day he discovers a magic bird that needs him to help her save the lost souls of many dead people who have been prevented from making the final journey on the "ship of souls".

For me I was alright with the beginning of this book which introduced the back-story, D, his friends and his family circumstances, but then the fantasy elements came in and I was a little unconvinced by it all. Maybe that was because the magic bird was such a weak character (in my eyes at least) lacking a clear mission and a clear identity. Also D at the end of the book decides he has nothing to live for which was surprising given the promising life it looked like he had ahead of him, so I was unconvinced by that too.

Perhaps if the book was fleshed out it would have been better, so D's life would have looked worse and the danger parts could have been more suspenseful. As it was those parts were over in an instant. Reading the blurb suggests there is a lot going on but the full story is squashed into not far past 100 pages.

The book was still ok, but could have been better.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Under Brooklyn's Prospect Park the dead cannot rest. For two centuries tormented souls of war victims have awaited deliverance - other souls determined to thwart, they as racist now as then. Caught up in the struggle are an unlikely threesome - eleven year old black Dmitri, school basketball champ Moslem Keem, punk Nyla. Spurring them on is talking bird Nuru....

An intriguing theme, its three central characters full of potential. Unfortunately the novel's brevity (barely 120 pages) proves a problem, many readers perhaps wishing for more fleshing out. They may also have difficulties with the "I" narrative, its style hardly that of a boy of eleven.

Although at times magical and moving (as with the ghost of young soldier Billy), for me the story's main impact was in its early pre-fantasy stages. Take, for example, when "freak" Dmitri is confronted by a school bully, Keem unexpectedly intervening to declare, "He's with me." In an instant Dmitri's life is transformed - he no longer prey, but protected property. Here is a moment that rings true, such instances less evident elsewhere.

An uneven tale - certainly not disliked, but perhaps not liked as much as one would wish.
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on 29 October 2013
I was glad I got this book. It was deeply moving and unlike any thing I have read for a while. It explores death, release, acceptance and purpose.

This would suit teenagers upwards, the discussion points at the end inspire further research into the historical subject matter.

I managed to get through this in just a few hours.
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VINE VOICEon 25 February 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
At 118 pages, this is a short book, a novella, and is a quick and engaging read. Set in New York, the story follows D, a young boy who is taken into foster care when his mother dies of cancer. A lonely child, D spends a lot of time in the park birdwatching. But his life changes when he encounters a strange bird who leads him on a mission to help the lost spirits that are trapped in the city.

D is very intelligent, and is soon hired to tutor the school basketball star, Keem, as well as being befriended by the beautiful Nyla. Their relationships are at the heart of the story, and this is really the central theme, the idea of belonging. The friendship between the children is very touching, as all three have troubled pasts and families.

The introduction of the mysterious bird brings an element of magic realism and fantasy into the plot. Combined with a bit of history - about the Revolutionary War and the slave trade - a unique story emerges. However, it would have been much more interesting if the writer had developed it a little bit more; the story could easily have accomodated another hundred or so pages, and it would have helped some parts of the tale be less one-dimensional.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Told in the first person by 11 year old main protagonist Dmitri, a black orphaned loner, `Ship of Souls' tells of his relationship with 2 other main persona, Hakeem a Muslim sports star and Nyla, something of a misfit punk, and it describes the magical adventure they share. All are appealing characters and they display endearing levels of compassion. `Ship of Souls' seems targeted at age 10+ years and there is much to inspire children as the trio meet adversity, share troubles, support one another and win through. It is a short story (118 pages) which leaves some loose ends, mainly from the initial chapters before fantasy kicks in, but it makes for a quick engrossing read that ends too suddenly. In addition to the gripping adventure (no spoilers in this review) author Zetta Elliott introduces information on race, religion, slavery, history etc. which again should stimulate readers. These are heavyweight subjects, but unfortunately due to its brevity `Ship of Souls' is somewhat lightweight.
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on 18 April 2012
I read this story in its entirity on a train journey from bristol to manchester and found it to be very enjoyable. The pace was snappy and and the story moved along nicely but there wasn't much in the way of exploration of the characters. Probably aimed at a young adult audience.
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VINE VOICEon 18 February 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The story centres around a boy called Dmitri (or D) who lives a lonely life in Brooklyn without family or friends. A maths whizz, D begins tutoring an older 'jock', Kheem, a Muslim, and is also befriended by the cool attractive Nyla an 'outsider'. However his life changes when he meets a magical bird and embarks on an adventure with Kheem and Nyla that takes them deep underground in a quest to help long dead souls.
This is an exciting and well written story, I sat down and read it within a couple of hours. I felt both the characters, plot and themes could have been explored much further to good effect and occasionally I felt disappointed in it's lack of depth. However it is written for young adults and certainly has plenty to think about that this age group can identiy with and discuss (themes of 'difference', 'friendship' 'duty', 'loneliness') as well as some fascinating historical background. There are discussion points at the end of the book, signposts to information on-line and ideas for writing excercises.
I enjoyed this novella, its magical realism was evocative and the plot exciting. Other books with a similar style (magical realism/coming of age) include the colourful and engrossing The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lucas, the frothy magical The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen or the folklore themed Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier. I have created a listmania called 'A touch of magic' which includes other magical realism books too. Hope you find it useful.
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VINE VOICEon 16 April 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
When D's only parent, his mother, dies of cancer he is left alone in the world but is fostered by elderly Mrs Martin. However, his temporary haven is shattered by Mrs Martin taking in baby Mercy, born as addicted to crack cocaine as her mother and screaming in withdrawal. And he has been tasked at school to tutor the intimidating basketball jock Hakeem. As D escapes to the nearby park he believes he's finally lost his mind, a bird is speaking to him. But this is no mental breakdown, it is the emergence of a strange and wonderful story, of the restless souls of the African Americans that built Manhattan and how the history of New York lies only just below the surface.

This is a great story and in parts very well written, the relationships between D, Hakeem and beautiful misfit Nyla are convincing and moving, and the magical story of the Ship of Souls is lovely, but there are places where the writing falters. A wonderful start.
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