Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
|Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A powerful story about police violence in the United States, invoking the real life killings of Tamir Rice and Emmett Till. Jerome's story is a call to action, told unflinchingly but with great humanity.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: April 2018|
|External links: Author's website|
How small I look. Laid out flat, my stomach touching ground. My right knee bent and my brand-new Nikes stained with blood.
Jerome was playing with a toy gun his friend Carlos had lent to him when he was shot by Officer Moore, who claims he was in fear for his life, that Jerome, a five foot tall, twelve-year-old boy, was a threatening thug whose menace was such that Officer Moore had no choice but to reach for his gun and eliminate the threat.
Ghost Boys follows Jerome in the time frames both before and after his death as he tries to make sense of what has happened to him and so many others. In the afterlife, as he wanders through Chicago observing the aftermath of his shooting, Jerome sees that there are many more like him - ghost boys, who died as a result of a segregated and racist society. He even meets Emmett Till, who leads the many dead, and whose own death in the world outside fiction was instrumental in kickstarting the civil rights movement in the United States.
The book takes us through the journeys through guilt and grief made by all the actors involved in Jerome's death - his parents, his grandmother, his sister, his friend Carlos, Officer Moore's daughter, and Officer Moore himself. And he realises that his purpose as a ghost boy is to bear witness until there are no more deaths to mourn.
Jewell Parker Rhodes has done a wonderful job of bringing such an important but gut-wrenching topic to a middle grade audience in a way that is not terrifying but inspirational and motivational. Jerome's story is a call to action and a manifesto for forgiveness. The awful events are told unflinchingly but with great humanity. There are resources for teachers at the end, including helpful contemporary and historical web links and suggested discussion questions. I think this would be the perfect book choice for teachers - even here in the UK, where young black people are rarely shot by police but are still treated unequally and where shootings in the United States do make big news.
I don't want to give any spoilers but the ending was perfect. Readers will be left with the sense that there are huge problems and injustices to be fought but that there is a positive path to take and a role we can all play in making things better. Ghost Boys is a sad book but it bears witness, and, as the author says, bearing witness empowers us to make positive change. I won't forget Jerome. And I won't forget Tamir Rice, the real boy who died in a similar way. And I won't forget Emmett Till, either.
If you'd like to know more about the history of the civil rights movement in the United States and how it feeds into today's Black Lives Matter campaign, then Nobody Gonna Turn Me 'Round by Doreen Rappaport is a great choice. And, of course, there is the classic Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D Taylor.
You can read more book reviews or buy Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes at Amazon.com.
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