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)
All American Boys (audiobook)
by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
All American Boys is a book that needs to be in the hands of everyone. I really appreciate Jason Reynolds as an author, and I thought this one was really well co-written. Both voices come out loud and strong. It is about a boy named Rashad who is picking up some chips and soda, and is mistakenly accused of stealing by a cop. The cop then beats the crap out of him, putting him into the hospital. Quinn, in the mean time, witnessed what happened, but the cop is a family friend who is like a big brother to him. Quinn can’t get past the fact that what the cop did was wrong, and he has to decide whether to push aside his loyalty to do what is right. Rashad deals with his own feelings, being accused of doing something wrong just because he is black.
What I liked about this book was that it was told from two perspectives (and read by two different people on the audiobook). Rashad is a black teen, and Quinn is white. Jason Reynolds is a black author and Brendan Kiely white. I liked that it was written and told from a black and white perspective. I will never ever understand what it is like to be an African American living in America, facing discrimination and racism. What stood out to me was the list of rules Rashad had to learn that were not part of my education as a white teenager. These are the kinds of things that help us understand what is going on in today’s society (although I wouldn’t limit it to today- it seems like a lot hasn’t changed from 70 years ago).
What I didn’t like about this book (although I understand) is the cussing, only because I want to share this with my students. Unfortunately, while many of my students hear (and use) the kinds of words, I am not about to respond to angry parent complaints. It has a message that NEEDS to be heard, but it’s definitely a YA book.
Book 12 of summer 2017!