Ship of Souls was a finalist for the Phillis Wheatley Book Award in the Children’s Literature category but the award went to Diary of B.B. Bright, Possible Princess by Alice Randall—congratulations! I recently finished The Deep, the companion book to Ship of Souls, and will post publication details once the ink has dried on the contract. Stay tuned…
Author Zetta Elliot’s skill is evident in the deft blending of down-to-earth, empathetic realism with a wholly convincing fantasy plot that draws on certain events in the history of New York, including the recent discovery of an old ship during construction work at Ground Zero. Elliot’s explanation for its being there is so much more enthralling than archaeologists’ suggestions that it was used as eighteenth-century landfill. Elliot also draws on an area of American [Revolutionary] war history that reaches out (quite literally!) across the centuries, via a plaque in Prospect Park commemorating American and German soldiers who fought there together. This thrill of the macabre is tempered with a yearning for reconciliation, for which D turns out to be the catalyst. In fact, the adventures that unfold after D takes an injured bird home from the park take not only D himself but also Nyla and Keem on a journey that could potentially destroy them all.
You can read the entire review on their blog.
Thea and Ana—otherwise known as The Book Smugglers—have written a fabulous joint review of Ship of Souls! Here’s a peek:
WOW. D’s journey in Ship of Souls is breathtaking in its gravity and heartache. While, from a plotting perspective, the actual story proper is a rather small, contained thing, it is not without its taste of the fantastic, drawing a portal between the current world and the ghosts of the past through the magic of a very special park and its historical significance. Do you know what I love the most about Zetta Elliott’s work? In both A Wish After Midnight and in Ship of Souls, Elliott effortlessly weaves history – a painful, grim, but true history – with fantasy. In this novel, she explores one of the first major battles of the British-American Revolutionary war. In 1776, Prospect Park (along Flatbush Ave) was the battleground for British and Hessian soldiers as they fought the Continental Army (led by George Washington) – and this iconic battle serves as a key point for the story. To do this, to add on top of the historical commentary also one that explores the issues of race, gender, and religion in contemporary Brooklyn, this is no small feat. But Zetta Elliott does it all without making the story didactic or dry, by making these threads more than just a Message or underlying theme – each of these facets of identity are a part of our main characters (D, Keem and Nyla).
You can read the entire review here.
The audio edition of Ship of Souls will be released in May, and I’ve been given permission to share this photo of Benjamin L. Darcie—the man responsible for giving D, Nyla, and Hakeem a voice! I admit that I’m a little anxious—and jealous. I’m used to reading the book to kids myself and I’ve learned how to add certain dramatic flourishes to keep them on the edge of their seat. But Mr. Darcie is a professional actor, so I’m going to trust that he’s better able than I am to bring these characters to life. It would have been cool to hear actual teens reading the book, but maybe that’s a project teachers can develop in their classrooms…
Turns out Booklist is *not* the only kidlit review journal to pay attention to Ship of Souls. We got a “sneak peak” at the upcoming School Library Journal review, and it’s great! Here’s are the concluding lines—the complete review will run in May:
This succinct tale brings well-researched historical background to a compelling urban fantasy. Dmitri’s magical journey through the city’s burial grounds leads him along a deeper emotional one, forcing him to face his grief and acknowledge that more in life is waiting for him. With a suspenseful story that will leave readers feeling inspired, this is a quick and intriguing read.
Thanks, SLJ! You can also watch a video interview with me conducted by Amy Bodden Bowllan, a blogger at the School Library Journal website. Amy runs the Writers Against Racism series and is an outspoken supporter of diversity in children’s literature.
I learned today that Ship of Souls has been selected as a Booklist Magazine top ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy Youth title and will be featured in the May 15th issue! I’m told that this is the issue of Booklist that will be distributed at BookExpo America, so if you’re planning to attend BEA, pick up a copy! I’ve been thinking lately about systems and how many of them are closed—if you’re not in the loop, you’re out of luck. And even if you manage to fight your way in, obstacles will still be placed in your way (have you seen that animated video about white privilege? The Unequal Opportunity Race). Booklist is the only major kidlit review outlet that reviewed Ship of Souls (Daniel Kraus gave it a starred review). So THANK YOU, Booklist, for giving my book the chance to compete on a level playing field.
On March 29th I had the chance to share Ship of Souls with students from the Jackie Robinson School in Crown Heights; they were invited to attend the youth program of the National Black Writers Conference held at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. Cheryl Willis Hudson and Wade Hudson (authors and publishers of Just Us Books) were wonderful hosts and emcees, and the kids were great, too!