“Ghosts” is a graphic novel by the very talented writer and illustrator Raina Telgemeier. “Ghosts” is a story that touches on many important themes and will be enjoyed by a wide audience of readers. Younger readers will enjoy a scary story while older readers will understand the dilemma Cat, the main character, faces and they will feel her anguish.
Cat’s family moves to be in a place where her younger sister, Maya, will be able to breathe easier. Maya has cystic fibrosis, a degenerative disease that leaves her weak and struggling for breath at times. They move from Southern California north to Bahía de la Luna. Cat is sad that the new town is covered in fog most of the time, and she’s sad that she had to leave her friends.
When Cat and Maya go exploring, they see how close they are to the ocean. They also discover an abandoned arcade on the boardwalk on the beach, and Cat is both surprised and frightened to learn that the town is famous for its ghosts. Their next-door neighbor, Carlos, is Cat’s age, and his ghost tour collides with Cat’s very real anxiety about seeing ghosts. Maya, on the other hand, is excited about the prospect of seeing ghosts. Telgemeier’s writing is especially touching as she explains why Maya wants to talk to ghosts.
Telgemeier also very matter-of-factly explains what it’s like living with someone who is very sick. Maya doesn’t get all the nutrients she needs from her food, so she has a port through which she gets liquid at night. She also has a vest that shakes to loosen up the mucus in her chest so she can breathe better.
While Cat truly loves her little sister, the story also shows that even the most loving sister, at times, wants to be the center of attention. The attraction between Carlos, who is a really nice guy, and Cat is evident throughout the story. As with any romance — no matter how innocent — the problem is that he believes in ghosts and Cat refuses to.
Tradition is also a theme in this novel. Cat’s mother tells her that she was rebellious as a young girl and never wanted to learn the traditions of her mother and family. She never learned to cook Mexican food. There is a sense of sadness about that, and a bit of magic at the end. Readers learn a lot about Día de los Muertos by watching the town celebrate it.
Sofia, a nine-year-old Telgemeier fan, said, “It was a little sad at the beginning. Then in the middle it got scary and mysterious. They go into this random arcade place and they got scared by the ghost tour. The little sister, Maya, really wants to go on the tour. Cat, the older sister, gets all afraid about her little sister seeing all these ghosts. Cat is hoping that the ghosts aren’t real. Read it because Cat gets over her fears of meeting ghosts.”
Does she meet a ghost? Sofia says it should be a mystery. Let the readers find out for themselves. The story is also perfect for those wanting more diverse literature because the mother is Hispanic, as are the neighbors. In fact, most of the people in Bahía de la Luna are Hispanic, and the friends that Cat makes in school are also very diverse.
“Ghosts” is a story that’s perfect for third grade through middle school.
Please note: This review is based on the advanced readers copy provided by the publisher, Scholastic, for review purposes.