(D) Ages 10-12, (E) Ages 12-15, Discussion Starters, Graphic Novel, Middle Grades, Multicultural
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Ghosts by Raina Telgemeir

A much-acclaimed graphic novel by Raina Telgemeir pokes below the surface creepiness of “hauntings” to explore how we feel about death.

Ghosts by Raina Telegemeir.  Scholastic Graphix, 2016, 239 pagesghosts

Reading level: 10-12

Recommended for: 12-up (with cautions)

Catrina, or “Cat,” isn’t happy about moving from L.A. to the northern California coast, but her dad just got this new job.  Also, her parents believe the move will be better for Cat’s little sister Maya, who has cystic fibrosis.  Why this is better isn’t explained: less smog?  More fog?  Maya is excited about the move, but then, she’s excited about everything—a more positive attitude would be hard to find.  And the prospect that Bahia de la Luna is haunted—or at least very friendly to ghosts—provokes entirely opposite responses in the sisters.  Their new neighbor Carlos has the same effect: Maya gushes over him; Cat holds him at arm’s length, not least because Carlos seems to be an expert on the local haunting scene.  A creepy experience with him that sends Maya to the hospital seems to justify Cat’s opinion, until the annual Day of the Dead rolls around.  The town’s Hispanic culture makes a big deal of Dia de los Muertes–when, with altars, shrines, and fiestas, they welcome the spirits of their dear departed.  Can it be that ghosts are to be welcomed, not feared?

Ghosts turns out to be not really a ghost story but a death-ain’t-so-scary story.  It’s a way for Cat to come to terms with the possibility of her little sister dying at any time.  In her afterword the author describes her first experience at a Dia de los Muertes celebration, and her astonishment at how joyous it was, in spite of the skeletons.  Not creepy at all!  With Carlos’s Uncle Jose (a cute skeleton who died at the age of 6) dancing with Maya in the closing panels, death is indeed not creepy; it seems like just a hop, skip, and jump to the other side.  Such a view is way too smiley-face, of course, and Christian parents will be decidedly uncomfortable with the celebrations and quasi-religious altars, but Ghosts is one of this season’s buzz books and could be a Newbery contender.  It could also be an opportunity to talk about the culture’s view of death compared with a biblical view (see discussion questions below).

Also by Raina Telgemeir: Drama

Cautions: Supernatural (unbiblical view of the dead and their spirits)

Overall rating: 3.25 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 2.5
  • Artistic value: 4

Discussion questions:

  • How should a Christian think about death? See Gen. 3:19, 22-24; Ps. 115:17; Job 1:21; John 14:9; I Cor.  15:54-55; Rev. 14:13, 20:6
  • Do you believe ghosts might actually exist?  If you can, compare some Bible commentaries on I Sam. 28:8-14.  Also see Lev. 19:31, Matt. 14:26
  • What’s the view of ghosts and spirits in the graphic novel Ghosts?  Do you see any harm in it?


Talk amongst yourselves...


  1. Alice says

    Thank you for doing this review. My daughter (13) really liked This auithor’s Babysitters’ Club reboots and Smile, but she took Drama back to the library, unfinished (she just told me), due to the gay theme. We were also caught off guard when reading The Marvels together out loud.

    • Janie says

      Thanks for your comment, Alice. We’ve reviewed both Drama and The Marvels with significant cautions for our readers. If you are wondering about a particular title, be sure and check us out!

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