Ghost Boys

by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Paperback, 2019

Call number



Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2019), Edition: Reprint, 240 pages


Juvenile Fiction. Juvenile Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML:A heartbreaking and powerful story about a black boy killed by a police officer, drawing connections through history, from award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes. Only the living can make the world better. Live and make it better. 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.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member dcoward
This tale of a murdered Black boy who meets up with the ghost of Emmett Till is a quick read that manages to provide many thought provoking ideas in it's short length.
LibraryThing member Whisper1
When Jerome meets a new boy at school, he knows that this newby will be bullied. Jerome too is bullied frequently and nastily by a gang of three who rule the school. When the new person exhibits a gun when the gang of three try to harm him, the bullies bow out.

In reality, the gun is a toy, but
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made to vividly, remarkably look like the real thing. When Jerome is given the gun as a thank you for helping the new student, he timidly accepts it. This determines his fate as he is murdered by a policeman when playing with the gun in a vacant lot.

This is a story of the sad reality of the American culture of today wherein innocent black boys and men and mowed down when it is assumed they are dangerously feared.

The story is well written and depicts the impact not only on the immediate family, but it is a telling for contemporary society and the way in which our views are molded in an unfair way.

Jerome's family is poor, hard working, and they are a solid family unit, until, Jerome is killed. The grief felt by his sister, parents and grandmother impacts the family as they grapple with an unfair system.

Jerome returns as a restless spirit, able to view the way his death impacts his family, and the boy who gave him the gun. He is accommodated by spirit of Emmett Till, a young boy viciously brutalized because he sadly did not know the rules of the south and Alabama's severe prejudice.

Examining the fear and the reality that police face each day, this unique book takes a very difficult subject and shines a light on how we might be better if only understanding abounds.

Excellent, and worthy of four stars!
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LibraryThing member eduscapes
GHOST BOYS by Jewell Parker Rhodes tells the powerful and timely story of a black boy killed by a white police officer.

The story begins with the death of twelve-year-old African American boy. Jerome shares his experiences with bullying and poverty leading up to his death while playing in a park
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with a toy gun. In alternating chapters, Jerome’s ghost meets the daughter of the police officer who shot him. He also learns about the history of other ghost boys who met a fate similar to his.

Librarians will find this compelling story is effective in tackling tough issues including gun violence, racial bias, and class differences. The easy-to-read, fast paced story would work well in reading groups or as part of class discussions connected with current events.

Look for this title on the “best of intermediate level books” for 2018.

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Hachette Book Group on April 17, 2018. ARC courtesy of the publisher.
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LibraryThing member mcelhra
Jerome is a black boy who is only twelve years old when is shot and killed at the playground by a police officer who supposedly thought the toy gun he was playing with was real. After he dies, his spirit remains close to home. He can watch his grieving family but they can’t see him. The only
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person who can see him is Sarah, the daughter of the police officer who shot him. She is struggling with the dichotomy of loving her father but hating what he’s done. The realization that he’s racist (whether he knows it or not) is hard on her. She looks to Jerome to help her deal with her feelings but he cannot absolve her guilt about what her father has done.

After a while, the spirit of Emmett Till, the real life black boy who was lynched in 1955 at fourteen years old, comes to visit Jerome. It’s then that one realizes that not much has changed in sixty years. Black people are still viewed with fear and suspicion.

Ghost Boys is extremely timely, as unarmed black men and boys are being repeatedly killed by police officers with little to no consequences for the officers involved. It’s a heartbreaking story, especially for a middle-grade book. I think parents should read it with their children because it will likely bring up emotions that a child will have trouble working through on their own.
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LibraryThing member rgruberhighschool
RGG: Written for middle grade. Not graphic, but intense, emotional. Poetic, but not written in verse. References to Emmett Till are explained, but will be connected to depending upon level of background knowledge. Reading Interest: 11-YA.
LibraryThing member rgruberexcel
RGG: Written for middle grade. Not graphic, but intense, emotional. Poetic, but not written in verse. References to Emmett Till are explained, but will be connected to depending upon level of background knowledge. Reading Interest: 11-YA.
LibraryThing member rgruberexcel
RGG: Written for middle grade. Not graphic, but intense, emotional. Poetic, but not written in verse. References to Emmett Till are explained, but will be connected to depending upon level of background knowledge. Reading Interest: 11-YA.
LibraryThing member BillieBook
It's a good book for discussion, but more suited to a library or classroom setting than a kid's personal library.
LibraryThing member ksmole1
Ghost Boys follows the story of an African-American child named Jerome who grows up in a city. Jerome never gets into trouble and is bullied a lot when one day he makes a friend who recently moved to town named Carlos. Carlos is used to bullies and carries a toy gun to get them to leave them alone.
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Carlos encourages Jerome to take the gun and have some fun for once. Jerome is hesitant but gives in which eventually leads to his death as he is spotted by a police officer and killed. The book then follows Jerome transferring back and forth from times when he was alive to when he is dead as he tells the story. Jerome encounters the girl who's father killed him, named Sarah and also meets another ghost boy who was shot due to his race named Emmett. The story follows the hardships that both Jerome and Sarah's families have to face. The book is great because it talks about an event that is common in the news today. I would enjoy doing a read-aloud and discussions with this book with a fifth-grade class as it talks about important issues and is relevant in their lives. I would read a couple chapters a day with them and then participate in whole-group discussions. This book would also be good to use with middle-schoolers.
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LibraryThing member acargile
This novel is on the 2019 Lone Star list; it is realistic fiction with a dash of historical fiction.

Twelve year old Jerome keeps his head down and stays quiet, away from trouble; he’s a good kid. He lives in Chicago and school can be scary with bullies who taunt him regularly. He hides in the
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bathroom during lunch. He has a plan and it usually works. Until Carlos. Carlos is new and the bullies are picking on him. Jerome knows he needs to stay out of it, but he helps him. He takes him to the safe bathroom only to have the bullies show up. Carlos defends himself and Jerome helps. As a thank you, Carlos gives him a toy gun to play with.

Jerome has a good home life. He likes his sister and his parents are good, supportive parents. When Jerome walks his sister Kim home and accepts the toy gun from Carlos, Kim doesn’t think it’s a good idea. That afternoon he goes to the park and plays with the gun. He’s just pretending to have a shootout like kids do. Someone calls the cops; they arrive and shoot him dead.

Jerome joins the ghost boys--the other boys who have died unjustly. His ghost mentor is Emmett Till, a famous African-American boy who was killed in the South unjustly. Jerome watches his family as they grieve, and it breaks his heart that they are so sad. He also becomes friends with the daughter of the cop who shot him. You get to meet the cop’s family and what the death does to them as well.

This novel is a healing novel about not making rash judgements and what it takes to heal as people and as a country. It’s not a long novel, but there is a lot to talk about and think about. If you liked Dear Martin and The Hate U Give, you’ll like this as well. If those novels are too much for you, this one is a solid middle school level content--a good intro before getting into the more mature books.
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LibraryThing member AMQS
I read this book in one sitting with tears in my eyes and with fear and dread in my throat. This is such a powerful, important, devastating book, and I think everyone should read it. And yet, I am not sure it is appropriate for my library. I'm going to have to think about it over the summer and
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maybe ask some of my elementary library colleagues to read it as well.

12 year-old Jerome narrates this story in segments that alternate between the day he is shot to death by a policeman while playing in a neighborhood lot ("Alive"), and the days, weeks, and months in the aftermath of his death while he watches his family grieve, and attends the hearing of the policeman who shot him in the back and failed to summon emergency help: "In the opinion of this court, there is not enough evidence to charge Officer Moore with excessive force, manslaughter, or murder" ("Dead"). Jerome meets the ghost of Emmett Till, brutally murdered at age 14 in 1955, and thousands of other "ghost boys": murdered black youths who appear to bear witness and try to help the living build bridges of understanding and forgiveness. The book is one fictional family's horrifying experience and a broader conversation about Black Lives Matter, staggering economic disparity in neighborhoods and schools, and the grim reality that America is just simply a dangerous place for black boys.

The reader knows much of this at the outset of the book. There is just no way to avoid the sickness and horror you are reading, and yet Ms. Parker Rhodes manages to make a powerful, hopeful, healing statement. I am thankful and devastated to have read it.
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LibraryThing member sgrame
12 year old Jerome lives in a rough neighborhood in Chicago. When he stands up for a new kid in his class who is being bullied, it forms a quick but all too short bond. Carlos pulls out a toy gun and frightens the bullies off. When he gives the gun to Jerome to play with after school, Jerome is
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seen with it and shot to death by a white policeman who thinks it is real. Jerome's soul leaves his body but doesn't know where he's supposed to go, so he just hangs around. In the preliminary court hearing, he finds out that Sarah, the daughter of the policeman who shot him can actually see him. Of all people! Jerome starts seeing other ghost boys like him, and slowly their stories begin to unfold. Sarah wants to believe her dad told the truth, thought Jerome was an adult and was going to shoot him, but seeing Jerome and hearing his story, makes her seriously doubt her dad's integrity. A great blend of current events with enough facts mixed in to really make one think. Appropriate for grades 5-8.
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LibraryThing member YAbookfest
Jerome is bullied at his school in a black, impoverished part of Chicago. He makes friends with Carlos, a boy who has just arrived from San Antonio. When the bullies gang up on them, Carlos scares them off with a gun. It is only a toy, but when the police see Jerome playing with it on the street,
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they instantly kill him. The novel moves between the living boy, Jerome, and his ghost who is visited by the ghost of Emmett Till, another black boy who had been murdered decades earlier. Jerome also connects with Sarah, the daughter of the policeman who killed him. This is a very moving, often painful exploration of the contemporary issues that have given rise to the "Black Lives Matter" movement.
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LibraryThing member fingerpost
Rhodes takes on the subject of white police shooting unarmed black men, or, in the case of this novel and many real life cases, black children. What Angie Thomas' "The Hate U Give" does for a high school and older audience, "Ghost Boys" does for a middle grades readership. She uses the unusual
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technique of having the story told in first person, by the victim... telling some chapters while alive, the events leading up to his murder, and other chapters while he is dead, a "ghost boy," watching the events unfold after his death.
12-year-old Jerome is playing with a toy gun when a white police officer shoots him in the back, killing him. Up to that moment, he was a more or less happy kid. He had a good, loving family, but was bullied at school. He makes a friend in a new kid at the school, a Latino boy, and in gratitude for his friendship, Carlos loans Jerome his toy pistol.
As a ghost boy, Jerome can witness events, such as the hearing to determine if the officer who shot him will stand trial. He can't interact with anyone alive though... with one interesting exception. The daughter of the police officer, who is also 12 years old, can both see him and talk with him. They are sometimes joined by the ghost of Emmett Till.
Rhodes does a beautiful job of showing the issue, and making it clear that it is white people who need to change, to end the racism; but she does this without demonizing white people, or lumping them all into one stereotype.
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LibraryThing member nsardo1
From what I read of this book (2/3), it has intrigued me from day 1. It is interesting to see the different sides of a story that happens almost every day. I feel like this is important to introduce to students who are not used to living in cities. I do not think it is appropriate in an elementary
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setting, unless fifth grade the lowest, because I am unsure that the students are too unexperienced for it. I am excited to finish it to see how it ends
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LibraryThing member DonnasBookAddiction
The realism of the deaths of unarmed black boys is so prevalent in the past and present day and time. in the telling of this story, I want to cry. I have always felt the shame and horror of Emmit Tills’ death and doing research on the killing of 12 year old Tamir Rice is modern day lynching

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though I enjoyed the premise of the story, I found it very sad and painstakingly truthful. In hindsight of the unrest and protests after the killing of George Floyd in 2020 and systemic racism, this novel is a powerful segway into having that conversation with young readers.

...Deep inside me. A recognition. Injustice.
Tragedy. - page 146

This is the sum and sentiment of this novel that swarms around all African American boys that have been killed unjustly by the hands of white men. Only the living can make the world better.

I must read something funny or uplifting after reading Ghost Boys, whew....Jewel Parker Rhodes is a great, and compassionate writer.
It’s evident that the passion of what was transpiring during the time of Parker Rhodes writing this novel is heard loud and clear.
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LibraryThing member ewyatt
Heavy story about a young boy, Jerome, who is shot and killed by a police officer after he is seen playing with a toy gun. The narrative bounces between Alive and Dead. After death Jerome becomes one of the ghost boys, young black boys who have been killed unjustly because of the color of their
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The leader of the ghost boys is Emmitt Till. Jerome and Sarah, the police officer who shot Jerome's daughter and the person who can see him as a ghost, learn about his story.
Set in Chicago, Jerome's family grieves, a preliminary hearing is held to see if there is enough evidence for the officer to go to trial, and his new friend Carlos deals with his guilt over giving Jerome the toy gun. A moving, quick read.
Jerome is this kid who is likeable and struggling, which makes the story all the more heartbreaking that he won't get a chance to grow up.
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LibraryThing member DrFuriosa
This is a devastating book, and that's an understatement of how wrecked I felt after reading it. This is bearing witness to the many black children killed by racism, whether through outright hate (as in the case of Emmet Till) or through racial bias and fear (as in the case of Jerome, our
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protagonist), and it is hard to accept that so many lives have been lost for no good reason. But bear witness, we must. We cannot accept this as a reality. Black lives matter, as well as white ones. Police can do their jobs but do so with accountability and sobriety. This book is necessary reading, even if it hurts while you step inside a grieving family's shoes.

Parents, I highly recommend reading this story before your grade-school-aged kids do. You'll know whether or not they are ready to process this alongside you. It's not graphic, but it is frank about the reality of living in a redlined neighborhood, being bullied in a poor school system, and the aftermath of being shot.
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LibraryThing member megbmore
The story begins with a death. Jerome lies on the ground, killed by a police officer. The story braids together the events of the day leading up to Jerome's killing, the trial of the police officer, and Jerome's life as a ghost. In his afterlife, Jerome can connect with one living girl, Sarah, the
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daughter of the police officer who killed him. He also connects with another ghost boy, who, it is revealed, is Emmett Till, the leader of the crew of Black boys and young men killed by white people.

Rhodes doesn't look for easy answers. While I was frustrated by Jerome's eventual willingness for his killer to find peace, I understood what Rhodes was doing: through Jerome, she explained that the issue isn't one bad cop or one mistake, it's systemic. This is a difficult but important message for young readers, and Rhodes handles it well. A great book for reading and discussing with young people.

Miles Harvey's narration brings all the characters to life and conveys both the anguish and the hope of the story.
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LibraryThing member Leamoore
Ghosts Boys is a great book about the aftermath of a family dealing with the trauma of a young black boy, Jerome, being killed. I think this book does a good job of expressing the emotions family's have after losing a loved one to police brutality, while keeping it current to the present times we
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are dealing with. I also think it does a great job of expressing the tragedy of Emmett Till and the repercussions black people still face in the wake of the tragedy. I would have this book in my classroom for all students of color in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement as it is important for each of them to understand their not alone, and recognize that their skin should be celebrated in all facets of their life.
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LibraryThing member Dairyqueen84
A timely, devastating read appropriate for middle school.
LibraryThing member jennybeast
I like the message (living must make the world better), but it's a harrowing journey. I mean, of course it is. People dying, children dying, as a result of fear and systemic racism is harrowing as hell.

Also, when I don't rate a book, it doesn't mean that it's bad. Just that my emotional response to
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it is far more complicated than "I liked it" and I'm too literal to stick to stars defined in that way.
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Nebraska Golden Sower Award (Nominee — 2021)
Texas Bluebonnet Award (Nominee — 2020)
Young Hoosier Book Award (Nominee — Middle Grade — 2021)
Kentucky Bluegrass Award (Nominee — Grades 6-8 — 2020)
Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award (Nominee — Grades 6-8 — 2021)
Sasquatch Book Award (Nominee — 2022)
William Allen White Children's Book Award (Nominee — Grades 6-8 — 2021)
Oregon Reader's Choice Award (Nominee — 2021)
Grand Canyon Reader Award (Nominee — 2020)
Truman Readers Award (Nominee — 2021)
NCSLMA Battle of the Books (Middle School — 2020)
Virginia Readers' Choice (Nominee — Middle School — 2021)
Kids' Book Choice Awards (Finalist — 2019)
Black-Eyed Susan Book Award (Nominee — Grades 6-9 — 2020)
Volunteer State Book Award (Nominee — Middle School — 2021)
YouPer Award (Top Ten — 2019)
Three Stars Book Award (Nominee — Middle School — 2020)
E.B. White Read-Aloud Award (Winner — 2019)
Charlotte Huck Award (Honor — 2019)
In the Margins Official List (Fiction — 2019)
Children's Favorites Awards (Selection — 2019)
Nerdy Book Award (Middle Grade Fiction — 2018)
Notable Children's Book (Older Readers — 2019)
Project LIT Book Selection (Middle Grade — 2019)
Chicago Public Library Best of the Best: Kids (Fiction for Older Readers — 2018)


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