Only the living can make the world better. Live and make it better.
Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that's been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.
Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father's actions.
Once again Jewell Parker Rhodes deftly weaves historical and socio-political layers into a gripping and poignant story about how children and families face the complexities of today's world, and how one boy grows to understand American blackness in the aftermath of his own death.
Praise For Ghost Boys…
A New York Times BestsellerAn IndieBound BestsellerThe #1 Kids' Indies Next PickA 2018 Nerdies List BookAn ALA 2019 Children's Notables List Pick
"This was one of my most anticipated 2018 books and I was not disappointed. A must read."—Angie Thomas, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Hate U Give
* "Rhodes captures the all-too-real pain of racial injustice and provides an important window for readers who are just beginning to explore the ideas of privilege and implicit bias."—School Library Journal, starred review
* "An excellent novel that delves into the timely topic of racism... with the question of whether or not we really have come far when dealing with race relations."—School Library Connection, starred review
"In writing that's spare and powerful, Rhodes takes us into the hearts and minds of those who are left behind, and then out into a vast and luminous world where ghost boys wander among the living, pursuing their mysterious mission. Rhodes has achieved something remarkable here: a kid's-eye-view of violence and racism that balances innocence and outrage, wrenching loss and hard-won hope."—Chicago Tribune
"A timely, challenging book that's worthy of a read, further discussion, and action."—Kirkus Reviews
"[A] potent story that deserves to be read."—VOYA
"Ghost Boys is powerful in prose, and so important at this time. I hope parents will read this book to their children."—The Monitor
"Written beautifully...an important novel."—WCMU Public Radio
"Unblinkingly confronts challenging perspectives and the mutability of truth."—Shelf Awareness
Additional praise and awards for Jewell Parker Rhodes' books:
Ninth Ward was named a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book, a Notable Book for a Global Society, a CCBC Choices pick, a VOYA Top Shelf Fiction pick, an ALSC Notable Children's Book, an SLJ Best Book of the Year, an IndieBound Kids' Next List pick, a Parents' Choice Gold Award recipient, and an NYPL Top 100 Title for Reading & Sharing.
Sugar was a Junior Library Guild selection, a Kirkus Best Book of the Year, an IndieBound Kids' Next List pick, a Jane Addams Book Award winner, an IRA Top Chapter Books selection, and a CCBC Choices Pick.
Bayou Magic was an LA Times summer reading selection and a Center for the Study of Multicultural Children's Literature Best Books selection.
Towers Falling was an Indiebound Kids' Next List selection, a Junior Library Guild selection, one of Amazon's Best Books of the Month, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, a Seventeen Magazine Best Book of the Year, and a Notable Book for a Global Society.
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 9780316262262, 240pp.
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. Why do you think the novel begins with Jerome’s death? How did the alternating time periods affect your reading of the story?
2. Why does Carlos bring a toy gun to school? Why might he feel like it is the best way to protect himself from bullies?
3. Why does Jerome take the toy gun even though it feels wrong?
4. Had you heard about Emmett Till before reading Ghost Boys? If so, what did you know about him? What did you learn about him?
5. Why is Sarah the only person who can see Jerome and Emmett?
6. At the court hearing, the defending lawyer accuses Officer Moore of “racial bias” (page 86). What does he mean? How can a person be biased without realizing it?
7. At the hearing, Officer Moore says, “I was in fear for my life” (page 131), and that is why he shot Jerome even though Jerome was running away. Jerome wonders, “When truth’s a feeling, can it be both? Both true and untrue?” (page 118). Why is the truth so hard to determine in these situations?
8. How did you feel when the judge announced that Officer Moore would not be charged with a crime? Why do you think Jewell Parker Rhodes chose this verdict?
9. Before Jerome moves on, he convinces Sarah to speak to her father about fighting racial prejudice even though she doesn’t want to. Why is this Jerome’s final act?
10. At the end of the book, Jerome realizes that he and the other ghost boys are able to communicate with certain people so they can “bear witness” to the ghost boys’ stories. What does this mean? How does bearing witness tie into the statement, “Only the living can make the world better” (page 203)?
11. After reading this novel, how can you make the world better?