Gustavo, the Shy Ghost

Book review by
Monica Encarnacion, Common Sense Media
Gustavo, the Shy Ghost Book Poster Image
A ghostly sweet tale of courage and friendship.

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Kids say

age 18+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids will learn a bit about Day of the Dead celebrations. Iconic images of Mexican culture appear throughout, including decorated altars to honor the ancestors, papel picado banners, and decorated skulls. 

Positive Messages

Strong messages about bravery, friendship, overcoming obstacles, and always being true to yourself. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

When Gustavo feels lonely, he doesn't try to change to make others like him. He draws courage from his strengths and invites all the monsters to his violin concert. 

Violence & Scariness

There are monsters, a ghost, skeletons, skulls, and a cemetery, but nothing is scary. 


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Gustavo, the Shy Ghost, written and illustrated by Mexican-born author Flavia Z. Drago, is a beautiful picture book about finding the courage to make new friends, while staying true to yourself. It's a lovely story that's relatable and easy to follow, a perfectly sweet tale to read with kids during the spooky season, and beyond. And it's is also available in a Spanish edition.

User Reviews

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Teen, 17 years old Written bybrodyman1219 October 20, 2020


too sad very powerful and deeper than juice wrld

What's the story?

In GUSTAVO, THE SHY GHOST, a little ghost named Gustavo who is good at doing all sorts of ghostly things: walking through walls, making objects fly, and glowing in the dark. However, Gustavo is shy, and there are some things that are harder for him to do, like interacting with other monsters and making new friends. Gustavo desperately wants to make a friend but he’s too timid to talk to the other monsters. Still, Gustavo is determined to overcome his fears, and he plans to share something he's good at with the rest of the little monsters. He invites them all to his violin concert at the Day of the Dead party! with a fun variety of paranormal characters. Gustavo discovers that he can stay true to himself by using his strengths to overcome his weaknesses and that he doesn't have to change to make others like him. Author/illustrator Drago cleverly sprinkles iconic images of Mexican culture among the pages. Decorated skulls seem to pop up every time you turn the page -- even the family goldfish is a skeleton! And there's a Day of the Dead celebration at the cemetery.

Is it any good?

This sweet, colorful picture book tale about friendship and overcoming shyness includes familiar themes that even the youngest reader will relate to. Gustavo, the Shy Ghost includes engaging illustrations and large text to make the story easy to follow. Each page offers plenty of background details to enjoy and vivid illustrations depict a variety of unique little monsters, making this book a treat for little ghouls and goblins during the spooky season -- or any time of the year. Perfect for Halloween or the Day of the Dead, it’s also a great year-round read to help kids understand that it’s OK to be shy and that you can be an introverted person and still be a great friend. 

Elements of Latinx culture are depicted in the decorated altars seen within the main character's home and at the cemetery. And although this book is also available in a Spanish version, I found myself wishing that both Spanish and English versions would have been included in the same book so families and children could enjoy and learn Latinx culture and language all in one place.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Day of the Dead celbration shown in Gustavo, the Shy Ghost. What traditions do you have in your family? What ways do you celebrate your culture and ancestors?  

  • What are some things you're good at? What are some things you're not so good at? How have you used your strengths to help you overcome your weaknesses?

  • Have you ever struggled to make a new friend? How did you show courage and bravery to help you overcome a time when you felt lonely or left out?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love ghost stories and Latinx culture

Themes & Topics

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