On My Bookshelf: Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

February 03, 2020

If you loved The Hate U Give, All American Boys, or Dear Martin, but don't feel that they would be appropriate for your middle school classroom, you'll want to check out Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes, which also focuses on the shooting of a young black boy by a police officer. The relationship between the 12 year old narrator and Sarah, the 12 year old daughter of the police officer who kills him, humanizes the story. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: 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.

If you loved The Hate U Give, All American Boys, or Dear Martin, but don't feel that they would be appropriate for your middle school classroom, you'll want to check out Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes, which also focuses on the shooting of a young black boy by a police officer. The relationship between the 12 year old narrator and Sarah, the 12 year old daughter of the police officer who kills him, humanizes the story. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
Why I liked it: A copy of Ghost Boys has been in my classroom all year, but I just finished listening to it on audiobook and it brought tears to my eyes more than once. I appreciated the many references to real young black men who have been killed by police officers and the author's note at the end. The relationship between the 12 year old narrator and Sarah, the 12 year old daughter of the police officer who kills him, humanizes the story.

I think that this relationship may help make the novel more relatable for young people who are not regularly exposed to gun violence. The details about the difficulties in Sarah's relationship with her father as well as between her mother and father also helped to round out these characters.

Classroom application: If you loved The Hate U Give, All American Boys, or Dear Martin, but don't feel that they would be appropriate for your middle school classroom, you'll want to check out this novel, which also focuses on the shooting of a young black boy by a police officer. Ghost Boys could be paired with Long Way Down, also middle school appropriate, to have a rich discussion about gin violence.

After reading, students could research Emmett Till and the other real young men mentioned in the book. Students could also learn more about different cultural and religious beliefs about the dead and ghosts.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Ghost Boys for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

If you loved The Hate U Give, All American Boys, or Dear Martin, but don't feel that they would be appropriate for your middle school classroom, you'll want to check out Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes, which also focuses on the shooting of a young black boy by a police officer. The relationship between the 12 year old narrator and Sarah, the 12 year old daughter of the police officer who kills him, humanizes the story. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

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