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Old Sins Cast Long Shadows

Cover of Ghost Boys
A review of Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

I liked Jewell Parker Rhodes' book Towers Falling. So it was with great anticipation that I picked up her newest, Ghost Boys. Ghost Boys confronts another difficult, and all too real issue in today's society.  Twelve-year old Jerome is shot and killed by a police officer while playing with a toy gun in a park near his house.  Now, as a ghost, Jerome sees the devastating aftermath of his killing on his family, his friend, and his community.  Jerome meets the ghost of Emmett Till and hundreds of other ghost boys roaming the earth as their tragic history keeps replaying.  Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened and see how historical racism played a role in Jerome's death.  Only one living person is able to see Jerome, and that is Sarah, the daughter of the white police officer who shot Jerome.

I appreciated the more accurate description of Emmett Till's murder than the story from the 1950's.  I thought this was a good way to introduce history to young readers.  Having Jerome get to know Sarah shows Jerome that his family is not the only one hurt by the tragedy, yet I find it hard to have much sympathy for her father who killed an innocent boy.  

The book touches on so many topics, racism, bullying, income inequality, white privilege, implicit bias, injustice,  and what does it mean to be a friend. When I read it, I thought Ghost Boys is sort of the The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas) and All American Boys (Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiels) for a middle school set.

February 6, 2019