Ghost Boys


Ghost Boys (hardcover)

by Jewell Parker Rhodes


This brand new book is an important read for our children.  I’ve talked a lot about The Hate U Give and Dear Martin and other books that discuss gun violence and black kids being shot by police, but those are young adult novels.  We need something for those in between kids that aren’t quite ready for these, but still need exposure to this growing epidemic.  Ghost Boys is perfect for that, and it gives students a history lesson, as well.  Jerome is a seventh grade black boy in a poor, dangerous part of Chicago.  He is also bullied by three boys at school.  He makes a new friend named Carlos, who is Mexican but from San Antonio.  Carlos gives Jerome a toy gun to play with, and Jerome finds himself shot by a white cop because of it.  He reappears as a ghost, guided by the ghost of Emmett Till.  Jerome sees his family mourning, stands in court when the judge decides not to press charges against the police officer who killed him, and is surprised when the officer’s daughter can see him.  He forms a relationship with the daughter, and helps her sort through her own feelings.

What I liked about this book is that it is a story that will stick with me.  Jerome could be almost any of my students, several who live in a questionable neighborhood with possible gang violence nearby.  Many are afraid of the police.  When I’ve heard about these situations in the news, the victims are often portrayed as being older, dangerous, threatening, etc. but in reality, they’re young men, boys even.  Jerome was very young at heart and not a threat at all, but this still happened to him.  I hope this causes my students to question the way “black and brown” kids are viewed, and be aware and proactive when they find themselves faced with a situation.

What I didn’t like about this book was that the cop was let off.  But honestly?  How many times has this happened in our country?  Seriously… it’s frustrating in a book, and it should be more frustrating and obscene that it is happening today in 2018.

 Book 68 of 40

(Book 34 of 2018)


Long Way Down


Long Way Down (audiobook)

by Jason Reynolds


Long Way Down is a powerful book about what it’s like to live in a place where people suffer from gun violence whether they are in a gang or not.  Will’s brother was just shot.  He and his mother are grieving their loss, but Will has to follow the rules:  don’t cry, don’t snitch, and get revenge.  He takes his brother’s gun and goes to follow rule number 3 when he is visited by the ghosts of several people he knows who died of gun violence.

What I liked about this book… first of all, the audiobook is read by Jason Reynolds himself, which to me, MADE the audiobook.  I may need to relisten just to get it all again.  Second of all, the language is beautiful (yet the subject is quite the opposite).  The entire book sounds like it should be read at open mic night.  I want to share this with an old friend who teaches kids to write poetry.  The use of repetition and metaphor make it sound like a poem.  Third, the power of the subject matter… I’m a middle aged white lady who lives in a nice neighborhood (although I did grow up in the projects and heard gunshots at night, but never knew anyone who was gang related growing up).  I cannot relate to any of it, but the power of the story gave me insight into a world I will never know first-hand.  I could go on with what I loved about this book, but nothing will stick with me more than the end.  Those last 2 words.  Just read it.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it’s a pretty short book.  However, the length of it was appropriate.  I just wanted more.


Book 22 of 40