GUEST BLOGGER LAUREN SIEBEN RECOMMENDS GHOST BOYS BY JEWELL PARKER RHODES
Through her book, Ghost Boys, Jewell Parker Rhodes once again distills challenging world topics such as racism, police brutality, and gun violence and provides us with a beautiful piece of work for young readers.
Ghost Boys is the story of 12-year-old, Jerome Rogers. He likes school and learning but is bullied for it. He has an adoring little sister, and hardworking parents who rely on his grandmother to help raise the kids. But one day, he’s out playing with a toy gun in a park near his house and is shot and killed by a white police officer that deems him as a threat.
The story alternates between Jerome being alive and dead, as he struggles to understand how this could have happened and navigating the world between life and death. Following his death, Jerome meets another ghost of a young black boy killed many years before him, Emmett Till, who begins to help him process the events that ultimately led to his murder. Through this lens he sees the effects that his death has on his family, his classmates, and the family of the officer who killed him.
This book offers a heartbreaking simplicity that challenges the reader to look at and begin to understand the effects of systematic racism and what it would take for meaningful change. The author takes on this massive subject that has plagued our society for many years and delivers it with a balanced thoughtfulness that is appropriate, and I would argue essential, for a middle-school audience. It provides many opportunities for discussion among readers and offers them a pathway to start to unpack many large societal issues and begin to empathize with people who may have these experiences.
Lauren Sieben is a UNB pre-service teacher currently interning with Sara BeLong teaching Grade 6 English at George Street Middle School. She has always had a passion for reading, specifically YA titles.