Last Thursday I finished one of my new favorites for middle grades readers: Raina Telgemeier‘s Ghosts (2016, Scholastic). My literature methods students (all future secondary English teachers) are doing book clubs in the next few weeks, and I read Ghosts because it was one club’s selection. And boy am I glad they selected it.
I’ve read Telgemeier’s Smile and her version of the first book of Ann Martin’s The Baby-Sitters Club, Kristy’s Great Idea. I bring these books in to share with my children’s literature students, and Ghosts will now be added to the list.
In this heartwarming story, Catrina (Cat) learns that perhaps it is not what is outside that holds us back but rather what’s on the inside. Ghosts starts out with a move, an often tragic situation for kids. Cat’s family move to Bahia de la Luna, California, because her parents feel the air there is better for her younger sister Maya, who has cystic fibrosis. When Cat and Maya travel with their neighbor (who gives ghost tours) in search of ghosts, Maya becomes so ill that she has to obtain a breathing tube. Slowly, Cat overcomes her fears and celebrates Día de Muertos with her friends. But Cat’s night does not end just with a party; it ends with her gaining a new perspective on death, in part, because of her sister Maya’s approach to life.
Here’s what I LOVE about Ghosts:
(1) The illustrations. Now I know this sounds crazy, because it is a graphic novel, but I just love the way Telgemeier draws her characters. The facial expressions are wonderful, and Braden Lamb‘s color work is amazing. The colorful, vibrant illustrations really drive the story forward and help readers experience the power of pictures. I’m going to use this book in an upcoming presentation about multimodal composition.
(2) Cat’s tentativeness. I find Cat’s tentativeness endearing. Whereas the older sister role is often thought to be filled by one who is bold and strong, Cat shows readers that sometimes us older sisters can be nervous ourselves – if only because of of our love for our siblings. And there is definitely beauty in that.
(3) It’s a MG book about illness. I’m going some work with my colleague (Hi Tara!) about illness in MG and YA books, and whereas this book is not in our current paper, Ghosts could definitely appear in a future piece I write about illness in MG texts. The best part about Maya is that she is more than her cystic fibrosis. She is a spirited and brave young lady who teaches others – her sister Cat mainly – about the good in life and not to be so fearful of what waits beyond …..
Let me know what you think of Ghosts below!