HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Ship of Souls
Author: Zetta Elliot
Publisher: Amazon Publishing, 2011
Language level: 5
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Young adult (I would say no younger than age 16)
Rating: 2 stars (POOR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Elliot, Zetta. Ship of Souls (published in 2011 by Amazon Publishing, P. O. Box 400818, Las Vegas, NV 89140). Eleven-year-old Dmitri, known as “D,” of New York City, NY, is a math genius whose mother has died of breast cancer, so he is taken in by Mrs. Martin, who is also fostering Mercy, a crack baby. Having been homeschooled all his life, D now must go to public school where he makes friends with Hakeem Diallo, a Muslim basketball star whom he is tutoring in algebra and calls “Keem,” and Nyla, a nice-looking but heavily-pierced army brat whose mother is a nurse with an online gambling problem. They are both two years older than D, and all three are African American. However, one day while bird watching in Prospect Park, D finds a strange bird which turns out to be a mysterious being named Nuru.
D has been chosen by Nuru to help lead a ship of dead souls from the African American Burial Ground in lower Manhattan to their final rest. However, as D goes underground, he and Nuru have to contend with another group of dead souls, the American Revolutionary War soldiers from the Battle of Brooklyn who were killed by the British when abandoned by their comrades. These souls are very prejudiced against blacks, except for one named Billy who helps D escape them, and in their hatred don’t want the African American souls to find peace. Keem and Nyla follow D underground to assist also. Will they achieve their aim? And will they ever get back home? I will have to admit that Ship of Souls is a very interesting and readable story that will especially appeal to those who enjoy things tales that are eerie, chilling, and macabre.
Unfortunately, the book is marred by a couple of problems. It is called a contemporary “urban fantasy,” so, in addition to dealing with racism, it has references not only to the war on terror and Ground Zero, but also to pimps, drug dealing, pervs (at the group home D is cautioned that, when taking a shower, “don’t drop the soap”), and other “bada**es.” For many youngsters, that is just NOT “real life.” Then, besides several common euphemisms and childish slang terms, like the annoyingly frequent appearance of “crap,” there are some near vulgarisms such as “pi**ed,” the names of God and Christ are used as exclamations, and the “d,” “h,” and even “s” words are found. It is noteworthy that D’s mother took him to church and told him “never to take the Lord’s name in vain.” I wish that the author would have followed her own character’s advice! Apparently, many people today have no problem with filthy language in young people’s books, arguing, “Kids hear it all the time,” but that’s not true in our house, and there are still some of us who find it absolutely disgusting under any circumstances. And it is simply so unnecessary. It would be really nice to read a modern, exciting, adventuresome young adult novel, such as this one most certainly is, where the author doesn’t feel that he or she has to “define deviancy down” with regard to the language.