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Pemba's Song: A Ghost Story
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there are some incidents of violence in this book including a murder, a poisoning, and spousal abuse, all relived in some way by a clairvoyant teen. Parents should also be aware that part of the novel takes place during the time of slavery. Cruelties of the time are mentioned in flashbacks rather than in the visceral way of many novels written today on the subject.
What's the story?
Pemba finds herself in a little "nothing" town in Connecticut after her mother moves her away from her friends and her beloved Brooklyn. Cell phone service is spotty and their new house, which is about 200 years old, is creeping her out. What does it mean when you look into the mirror and see someone else? With the help of a friendly, yet kind of weird older man, Pemba starts learning the history of the little town. The more she learns about the town and the mysteries of her house, the more she learns about herself. Unfortunately, the house's past threatens to take control of her in ways she never imagined.
Is it any good?
This is a great novel full of excitement and intrigue. Authors Marilyn Nelson (a Newberry Honor recipient) and Tonya C. Hegamin weave a tale that takes the reader back and forth through time with the greatest of ease. They are adept at creating characters that readers care about. Pemba alternates between being fiesty and sullen as she tries to adjust to a new life and town while worrying about friends back home leaving her behind. Phyllys has a quiet determination and dignity juxtaposed with intense sadness. Both teens feel the resentment that comes from living life under someone else's control, yet both are resolute in their pursuit of justice for crimes committed long ago.
This book will be a hit with a variety of readers. Teens will identify with both girls' struggles to assert independence and to be heard. Mystery lovers will get caught up in the twists and turns of the tale, and reluctant readers will enjoy the modern references and reading ease of this realitively short narrative. Parents will appreciate how the authors made history an intergral, yet seamless part of the story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about American history and compare lifestyles then and now. Pemba finds herself living through a slave girl that once occupied her new house. What are the similarities between Phylly's life and Pemba's? What are the similiarities between their lives and yours? What did Pemba learn while researching town history with Mr. Abraham? What history do you know of the town where you live? Why is important to know your family's personal history?