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Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes – Book Review

  • Title: Ghost Boys
  • Author: Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • Release Date: April 17, 2018

RATING: 4 STARS

Jerome Rogers is a good kid. He loves his family, enjoys school, and does the right thing. However, his life is not without conflict. For instance, he faces relentless bullying at school. When Jerome befriends a new student, a series of events leads to his tragic death at the hands of the police. Now, Jerome must live as a ghost, watching his family grieve and move on while coping with the injustice of his death and navigating connections to others affected by senseless violence at the hands of law enforcement.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes is deeply affecting, timely, and thought-provoking. The author’s narrative technique seamlessly weaves the past with the present, mirroring the long, tragic history of African-Americans’ persecution and discrimination at the hands of law enforcement. Jerome’s perspective provides a voice to those lost too soon and powerfully advocates for its readers to take action against the systematic injustice the African-American community faces. Jewell Parker Rhodes’ novel adds to the growing chorus of narratives that tackle such tough topics with crystal clear conviction. As such, it is a must-read for students and adults alike, serving as an important springboard to open dialogue about urgent issues our society faces today.

Classroom Applications

  • Cross-curricular Study – Teach the novel in conjunction with a nonfiction study of the African-American history, with a focus on systemic racism.
  • Literature Circles – Use novel for small groups or choice reading with a variety of books about the tragic deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement.
  • Writing – Use the novel as a way to teach a unit about short stories or vignettes.

Nonfiction Connections: The list below outlines topics that will enrich your students’ understanding of the novel.

  • Emmett Till
  • African-American History
  • Jim Crow Era
  • Black Lives Matter Movement

Book Companions: The following are great books to pair with Ghost Boys. In parenthesis are the specific aspects students could explore when synthesizing across the texts.

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Thematic Connections, Character Connections, Nonfiction Connections)
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (Thematic Connections, Character Connections, Nonfiction Connections)
  • Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson (Character Connections, Thematic Connections)
  • Dear Martin by Nic Stone (Thematic Connections, Character Connections, Historical Connections)

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