Friday, March 9, 2018

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ghost Boys
by Jewell Parker Rhodes

My rating: 3 stars

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (April 17, 2018)
Publication Date: April 17, 2018
Genre: Children's Books | Fantasy w/a message
Print Length: 224 pages
Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that's been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.

Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father's actions.

Once again Jewell Parker Rhodes deftly weaves historical and socio-political layers into a gripping and poignant story about how children and families face the complexities of today's world, and how one boy grows to understand American blackness in the aftermath of his own death.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ghost BoysIn a world where we are inundated daily with terror and hate, we are taught to fear first, think later. This is the heartbreaking story of one young boy’s death when he is shot by a policeman and how his ghost will bear witness to the breadth of the devastation that follows.

Jewell Parker Rhodes’ GHOST BOYS addresses a slice of the rampant racism that still exists in our “enlightened” society. Jerome will witness the devastation of his family as they crumble as individuals forgetting to stand together with love. He will also see the aftermath of the shooting on the officer and his family when he meets the daughter of the white officer who pulled the trigger. Sarah must face the realization that the man she has looked to for shelter and caring is as flawed as any human, there will be no do-overs, no taking back his actions.

There are lessons to be learned and Ms. Rhodes has done a remarkable job with her creation of Jerome and Sarah. She has scored a direct hit with their relationship and the conflict of youthful emotions. I did have a trouble with the introduction of the ghost of Emmett Till. His story is true, it is an abomination, it is evil at its worst, compounded. It almost felt too calculating and inflammatory. Nowhere throughout this story did I truly see an attempt at healing of the world community of races.

We tend to forget that racism is not only a “black and white” issue. I think that is my biggest problem with this book. It isolates racism into a narrow cubbyhole when it should be embracing the world.

Is it age appropriate for middle grade readers? Yes. Does it give a realistic and complete view of racism that is unbiased? I just feel it fell short, in spite of the writing talent of this author. I wanted to champion this book, to share it, but I can't.

I received a complimentary ARC edition from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Children's Fiction , Middle Grade!


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