A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Often in harrowing terms, Ghost Boys brings litany of names of black kids and teens killed by white adults over centuries, defining racial prejudice and institutionalized racism as root cause of each killing. Each incident and particulars, which range from human error to coldblooded murder, merit further study, discussion as to how it could have taken place, how it might have been avoided. Day of the Dead celebrations are part of story. Also includes a raft of study questions.
Ghost Boys is "Dedicated to the belief that we can all do better, be better, live better. We owe our best to each and every child."
Positive Role Models
Characters are often more representations of viewpoints and circumstances than actual people -- a study question notes that Sarah is supposed to "symbolize" something, other than just being her own self. Jerome has a strong, loving bond with his parents, grandmother, sister, and watches their life unravel in the wake of his death -- then watches them find new love and strength in each other in the face of injustice. Sarah is overwhelmed by fact that her beloved father has killed a kid her age, also struggles to cope with her own family coming apart in wake of the killing. Jerome's friend Carlos is tortured by guilt for giving Jerome the gun, but steps up to protect Jerome's little sister against bullies, saying she is "mi familia."
Violence & Scariness
The 12-year-old narrator has been shot dead in what may or may not have been an honest mistake. Horrific murder of Emmett Till, seen through eyes of the victim, comes as an awful revelation to Jerome and Sarah. Before he's killed, Jerome is in danger from bullies every day at his school, which directly leads to the tragedy of his death.
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Occasional "God" as exclamation, "damn," "sucks."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drug dealers are everywhere in Jerome's neighborhood, but he heeds his father's advice to avoid them.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Ghost Boys, by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Towers Falling, Ninth Ward), is told by Jerome, a 12-year-old bullied black kid in Chicago who's shot dead by a white policeman while playing with a toy gun. Both his own family and the cop's start to unravel in the wake of this horror as Jerome watches through grieving, anger, court appearances -- and his friend stepping up to defend his little sister from bullies. Along the way, he forms a shaky friendship with the cop's daughter, Sarah (the only living person who can see him), and learns from ghost boy Emmett Till of a long and brutal history of black kids being killed. In a story where there are no winners, the only thing to do is to try to do better.
"'It matters why my dad shot you.'
"'Why, so you can feel better?'
"Sarah starts crying and I feel like the bullies I hate."
Is It Any Good?
Jewell Parker Rhodes and her newly killed 12-year-old narrator tell the ripped-from-the-headlines story of another black kid with a toy gun shot dead by a white cop. It's a harrowing, heavy, and sometimes heavy-handed tale with no winners. As the story unfolds and the Ghost Boys gather, we learn a lot about atrocities against other black kids, including Emmett Till, whose murder plays a role in the story. The book presents a lot of serious issues, a lot of complexity, a note of hope, but no quick solutions.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.