Ghost Boys

By Jewell Parker Rhodes,

Book cover of Ghost Boys

Book description

A heartbreaking and powerful story about a black boy killed by a police officer, drawing connections through history, from award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes.

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…

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Why read it?

7 authors picked Ghost Boys as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This moving novel is right from the headlines of today reflecting real-life events. 

The story follows a 12-year-old boy named Jerome who is shot and killed by a white police officer after he mistakes Jerome's toy gun for a real one. Jerome becomes a ghost who meets another ghost, that of Emmett Till, a black boy who was murdered in 1955.

Through Till's story, Jerome learns about other "ghost boys" left to roam society, trying to stop society from repeating itself. 

Ghost Boys is an engaging middle-grade novel about a modern African American child who is killed by the police but doesn’t realize he is dead.

He is then guided to the afterlife by the ghost of Emmet Till and other Black boys who were murdered in racist attacks, thereby highlighting the unique dangers that African American children face.

Recommended to me by a student in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Ghost Boys, is heartbreakingly narrated by 12-year-old Jerome as he observes his family’s grief after his death. This novel adeptly reveals the ways in which Jerome’s death is part of a pattern of historical and systemic violence against Black boys. Jerome’s own understanding of this is developed through the friendship he establishes with other ghost boys, including Emmet Till.

Jermaine’s descriptions of his Chicago neighbourhood are vivid. The poignant chapter, "Roam," where Jermaine discovers the dichotomy between his underserved neighbourhood and other parts of the city…

This book explores the theme of racial violence for younger YA or MG readers, through the story of a twelve-year-old killed by a police officer, who meets the ghost of other boys, like Emmett Till, also killed because of racism. I was really impressed by how this book handles such a heavy topic in a way that brings younger readers into the conversation. I also appreciated how the main character’s friendship with the police officer’s daughter adds a note of hope.

From Christine's list on anti-racist young adult stories.

Ghost Boys is the tragic tale of seventh-grader Jerome Rogers. Set in inner-city Chicago, Jerome Rogers is a good student doing his best to navigate his adolescence. As a young black man Jerome is warned by his parents to avoid negative influences.

But in a moment of innocence, Jerome is shot and killed by a police officer, mistaking Jerome’s toy pistol as the genuine article. The story is all too familiar. As a ghost, Jerome finds brotherhood amongst a collection of specters who have suffered a similar fate. Historical figure Emmet Till guides Jerome through his anger and grief as…

12-year-old Jerome, a Black boy shot by a White police officer, tells his story in alternating sections before and after his death. Jerome finds his purpose as a Ghost Boy after he realizes the only living person he can communicate with is Sarah, the daughter of the cop who shot him.

Rhodes uses magical realism to create a connection and explore a conversation that would otherwise be impossible. She tackles the controversial topic with moderation appropriate for young readers while still packing a powerful emotional punch.

From David's list on that conjure up magical realism.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes is an important and powerful story that touched my heart and is a must-read for grown-ups and kids. This story reminds us all of the importance of empathy, understanding, and kindness. In the book, the character Jerome asks, “When truth is a feeling, can it be both? True and untrue?” I found this question to be such a powerful and thought-provoking sentiment and one that will certainly spark discussion. And in the back matter, author Jewell Parker Rhodes says, “Through discussion, awareness, and societal and civic action, I hope our youth will be able…

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