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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ghostwriter is an excellent reboot of the same-named 1990s series. It encourages literature literacy with stories that involve characters from classic and modern books, with content that brings them to life and into the midst of the four kids tasked with helping them. The show is well written, features a diverse cast, has no iffy content, and relates themes from the featured books to issues that arise in the kids' lives and relationships, encouraging the idea that stories and reading still have relevance in an era of technological dominance. What's more, it's so much fun to watch that it's a great pick for grade-schoolers and their parents, many of whom probably remember the original.
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What's the story?
In GHOSTWRITER, Rubin Reyna (Isaac Arellanes) is having a difficult time settling into a new school after he and his mom (Nicola Correia-Damude) relocated to live with his newly widower grandfather (Jay Santiago), but fate connects him with some new friends when the four kids see mysterious messages spelled out around them that others don't notice. Suddenly Chevon (Amadi Chapata), Donna (Hannah Levinson), Curtis (Justin Sanchez), and Rubin are thrust into mysteries that bring them face to face with characters who have stepped right out of the books in Grandpa Ernesto's bookstore, and it's up to the friends to gather them up and return them and their stories to the pages in their respective volumes. To keep them on track when clues seem sparse, Ghostwriter communicates with the kids through written words and phrases spelled out in unexpected places.
Is it any good?
This reboot is a charming and exciting romp through the pages of classic and modern children's literature as the characters' adventures play out in the kids' urban surroundings. One minute Rubin and his friends are minding their own business and taking math tests in class, and the next they're following an enchanted skateboard down the city streets to discover Mowgli and some of his animal friends in an indoor jungle display or sitting at tea with the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter in the school auditorium. With no one else able to see or hear the characters who need the kids' help, it all falls to these four to return the wayward visitors to the blank pages of their book homes.
But what of the literary value of a TV show that takes characters out of books and puts them on the screen without the context of their respective stories? As the kids decipher Ghostwriter's clues and piece together what they need to do, they turn to the books from whence the characters came for just that context. By knowing the story they're able to separate friend from foe, understand the characters' needs and actions, and help solve problems that the accidental visitors encounter. In so doing, they also articulate the stories' themes and even find ways to relate what they learn to minor problems in their own lives.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about their experiences with reading and books. Is reading a favorite hobby? How does reading feed the imagination in a way that TV, movies, and technology can't? What is your favorite book and why?
Rubin and his friends make connections between the themes in the stories they read and the events in their own lives. Do you ever find that to be true in your life? Can fictional characters' experiences help us better understand our own? Do you think that is the author's intention?
In what ways do the characters in Ghostwriter demonstrate their willingness to work as a team, even when it is difficult? Is there an obvious leader in the group? Does there need to be for a team to be effective?
- Premiere date: November 1, 2019
- Cast: Isaac Arellanes, Amadi Chapata, Hannah Levinson
- Network: Apple TV+
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Book Characters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Teamwork
- TV rating: TV-G
- Available on: Streaming
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: January 21, 2021
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