Ebony Mom Politics recommends Ship of Souls for parents looking to ward off spring break boredom:

My kids will be on spring break soon and by Day 3 I will hear this familiar phrase, “I’m bored.” To cure that boredom I am going to let them read Ship of Souls by Zetta Elliott. This novel details the journey of D (Dmitri) an orphaned math whiz, Hakeem, a basketball star and Nyla a spunky Army brat. Their paths intersect when D becomes a tutor for Hakeem who only has eyes for Nyla. In this fantastical tale D meets a magic bird who has the ability to morph into all sorts of things, but the bird has a specific mission for the trio that will ultimately change their lives. This urban fantasy is centered around Brooklyn, and it is exciting to watch them navigate in search of their own truth. This sometimes frightening tale will keep the reader on pins and needles as they watch the trio walk toward their destiny. It successfully combines African history with modern day mystery. The beauty of this story is it is a learning experience and an adventure. I also love that the fact that the reader also gets the opportunity to reflect on the tale with a series of thought-provoking questions at the end. This is a great read for adults and kids alike.

Ship of Souls also got a nice review over at Finding Wonderland. Thoughtful reviews are always appreciated, but critiques by fellow authors are especially meaningful:

Dmitri, or D, is a great narrator—he’s a smart kid who’s trying to muddle along and be strong in the wake of his mother’s death, but that’s hard to do when your world has turned upside down and you’re living with a foster mother. Endearingly, he wants to do everything right, and he really is a good guy, but he still feels set apart from his classmates at his new school. The two new friends he makes couldn’t be more different from one another—Hakeem is a Muslim basketball star D is tutoring in math, and Nyla is a worldly-wise, mouthy military brat who hangs out with the self-confessed “freaks”. But they quickly forge a bond when they’re drawn into D’s adventure. I loved that both Hakeem and Nyla are as multicultural as you can get, from diverse families, but in a way that was still realistic rather than seeming forced. I also liked D’s foster mother Mrs. Martin, although I kind of wished she’d had a bigger part somehow.

Lastly, have you signed up for The Book Smugglers‘ newsletter? I was asked to write something for their April issue, and we’ll be giving away five copies of Ship of Souls—so sign up!


our ship has sailed!

Thanks to everyone who came out on Saturday to celebrate the launch of Ship of Souls! My amazing friends and family members did all the work so that I could enjoy the moment, and the party was a success—I gave a talk in the theater, read from the book, three lucky raffle winners won books, and then we went into the multipurpose room for refreshments. I’m so grateful to everyone at the African Burial Ground National Monument for allowing us to hold our event at the site. As Ranger Cyrus Forman pointed out in his introduction, people have been leaving offerings at the burial ground since the 17th century, and Ship of Souls is simply the latest offering to the ancestors…

more great reviews!

Ship of Souls has gotten two more great reviews. Em at Love YA Lit had this to say:

At just 132 pages, Elliott does an impressive job creating a cast of complex and amiable characters, weaving in history, and conjuring up some magic like I’ve never seen before. I would gladly spend more time with D, Keem, and Nyla. Each are interesting, distinct characters, but even more so their chemistry and their growing camaraderie were enchanting. Elliott does a fabulous job of creating believable characters in realistic settings. In both of her urban fantasy novels, I’ve found myself intensely connected to the contemporary/realistic sections of the stories, before diving headfirst with the characters into the fantasy. In Ship of Souls, what starts off feeling like a contemporary fiction novel, eventually turns into an all-out fantasy adventure. The story is fast-paced, with short chapters and lots of action, making it a great choice for struggling readers or those craving a quick read that doesn’t lack in quality and depth. While Ship of Souls is a bit more MG than YA, with it’s complex character development, strong sense of place, beautifully imagined fantasy, and unique feel, it should find a home with many ages of reader.

And The Happy Nappy Bookseller wrote this:

The first time in I felt Ship of Souls had a few unexplored threads but there was still a lot to like about it. Beyond the characters it’s visually amazing. When the kids finally found the room where the African American souls were trapped, Elliott had my heart. She describes sorrow with such beauty. Also Elliott’s writing is strong and crisp. There are moments and lines that are hard not to be moved by. The first time in I wished Ship of Souls was longer. However when I read it again I was more okay with the length (though I still wanted an extra chapter in which the three friends get to know each other better) and everything came together better.


more reviews

Ship of Souls has been getting some great reviews! We have a five-star review from the Vine program on Amazon.com, and Edi over at Crazy Quilts has paired her wonderful review with the top ten songs on the German pop chart!

Some authors are writers while others are storytellers. I think this short novel attests to Elliott’s skills as both. The events flow flawlessly, without contradictions or miscues. Historic elements are woven into the story from the American Revolution to 9/11 which speak to the presence of so many ethnic groups in the creation of America and the historic misinterpretation of their contribution. Water, trees and birds are magical elements of nature that serve as portals between the physical world and other dimensions. And then there’s Nyla and Keem, two supporting characters who are developed so well that we cannot help but wonder what more will happen to them, alone and/or together.

We also got a thoughtful review from Lyn Miller-Lachmann over at The Pirate Tree:

In contrast to many works of urban fantasy, Elliott concentrates less on world building and more on building the reader’s emotional attachment to her characters, particularly her protagonist, D. If more authors of fantasy did the same, I would read more fantasy…This story will appeal especially to middle grade boys, who’ll appreciate both the fast-paced adventure and the fact that the author has created a safe space to explore emotional issues experienced by many of her target readers.

The Pirate Tree will also run an interview with me later in the week. There was one 3-star review on Amazon from a teacher who said her reluctant reader couldn’t get into it—and she didn’t care for the book herself. Makes you wonder about the connection between a teacher’s impression of a book and its chances in the hands of her students…

Help us launch Ship of Souls!

You’re invited to the official launch party for Ship of Souls, the latest novel for young readers by award-winning author, Zetta Elliott.

Set in New York City, this unique blend of magical realism and history explores the quest for belonging, the power of friendship, and the value of loyalty.

Get a signed copy of the book, enjoy some refreshments, and learn more about the magical and historical events that inspired this incredible story!

March 3, 2012



The African Burial Ground National Monument

290 Broadway

(between Duane St. and Reade St.)

Need directions? http://www.nps.gov/afbg

Need more information? info@zettaelliott.com

Booklist gives Ship of Souls a STARRED review!

Ship of Souls got its first *starred* review! Here’s what the reviewer for Booklist had to say:

Eleven-year-old Dmitri, aka “D,” doesn’t fit in anywhere. After his single mother died three months ago,
he was taken in by an elderly white foster mom who also cares for a crack-addicted infant. At school, D’s
the smartest kid around, yet worries constantly that he’s not “black enough.” So it’s an oddball twist of
fate the afternoon he finds himself birdwatching with pierced military brat Nyla and basketball star,
Hakeem. A bond of friendship is solidified when D confides in them a secret: he has found a one-of-a-kind
“bird,” though it’s really not a bird—it’s a being named Nuru that has asked D to help her rescue the souls
of dead soldiers located at Manhattan’s African Burial Ground. Urban fantasies are nothing rare, but few
mesh gritty realism with poetic mysticism so convincingly. By turns sad, joyful, frightening, funny, and
inspirational, Elliott’s second novel is a marvel of tone and setting, creating a universe where angry
corpses and rock-monsters are every bit as expected as dirty subways and bag ladies. Issues of war,
poverty, racism, Islam, and 9/11 do not bog down the telling but instead enrich it. Different readers will
take away different messages, all of them powerful—quite an accomplishment for so few pages.
— Daniel Kraus

To my knowledge, there weren’t any dead soldiers buried in the African Burial Ground, but other than that, I’m *thrilled* with this review. Found out today that Kirkus passed because they didn’t have enough lead time…but hopefully more great reviews are yet to come.

I’m told the final cover will be ready SOON…