Raina Telgemeier does it again. Ghosts, her latest graphic novel for middle school readers (with lots of wiggle room above and below that readership), is another fantastic bit of storytelling that effectively uses the images of graphic storytelling to complement and enhance the story itself.
Ghosts is about family, and friendship, and ancestry, and culture. It is told with humor and compassion. It’s fun to read, too (always a key criteria). Telgemeier, whose books Sisters and Smile and Drama and others are a hit with many of the girls in my classroom (and a few boys), brings a sense of wonder to her topics.
Here, the story centers on a family that has moved to the California coast because the younger sister (Maya) has Cystic Fibrosis, and her lungs need the cool ocean air. Her older sister, Catrina, worries about her and doesn’t like this place where the family has moved because of its cultural connections to ghost stories. Mexican roots run deep in this town, and soon, Catrina and Maya learn that ghosts are not only real here, but they are also deep connection points to family history.
I was taken by how thoughtfully and carefully Tegemeier approached Cystic Fibrosis, giving Maya a full and rich character even as the disease slowly hobbles her and has her wanting to meet the ghosts to learn more about death, which she knows is coming early in her life. That’s pretty deep, and Tegemeier’s Ghosts does a fine job of making that investigation part of the fabric of the story.
“It’s sad … but good,” a student of mine said, as she cradled Ghosts the other day before settling down to read quietly.
Peace (be not afraid),