(D) Ages 10-12, (E) Ages 12-15, Boys, Middle Grades, Multicultural, Starred Reviews
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*Ghost by Jason Reynolds

A kid from “the projects” learns to put speed in service of character building and achievement.

*Ghost by Jason Reynold.  Atheneum, 2016, 180 pages

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12ghost

Recommended for: ages 10-15

Castle Crenshaw, better known as “Ghost,” knows he’s fast, ever since his father chased him and his mom out of their apartment waving a gun—and actually shooting at them.  Since then, “I got a lot of scream inside.”  It comes out when he gets pushed or shoved or messed with.  But when he stages an impromptu race with an irritating member of a neighborhood track team, the team coach starts messing with him in an entirely new way that takes some getting used to.  Despite his early resistance, Ghost liked the competition and the sense of going somewhere, until he takes a wrong turn through a store called Everything Sports.

Short but poignant, the story lopes right along and delivers on every front—character, plot, theme, style.  Though the premise is sad, and other kids on the track team have sad stories too, the tone never drags down in gloom.  In running, speed isn’t everything.  It also matters where you’re running to.  As Coach says, “You can’t run away from who you are, but what you can do is run toward who you want to be.”  By the final page Ghost is on the right track though it was by no means a given that he’d get there.  His major transgression is understandable but not justified, and though he feels bad about it, his conscience—the conscience of a basically decent pre-teen who hasn’t had an abundance of moral direction—adjusts rapidly once it seems he won’t be caught.  He needs a responsible adult to straighten him out, and he gets one.  Would that all fatherless boys in the projects were so lucky.  The story ends as it began, with a POW! from a gun, but this time Ghost isn’t running away—he’s running toward.

Note: Ghost is the first title in a new middle-grade series called Track, based on the author’s experiences on an inner-city track team.

Also by this author: All American Boys, When I Was the Greatest

Cautions: Depressing situations

Overall Rating: 4.75 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 4.5
  • Artistic value: 5



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  1. Presley says

    What page number is the quote “You can’t run away from who you are, but what you can do is run towards who you want to be”?

    • Janie says

      Presley: According to my notes, it’s on page 155. Thanks for asking!

  2. sanah says

    Please help me answer this question
    What do you think Ghost means when he says, “I got a lot of scream inside”?
    .In addition to training the Defenders to be competitive runners, Coach also teaches them to work together as a team, helping them learn to be responsible and empathetic. What tactics does he use to teach these life lessons?

    • Janie says

      Ghost’s “scream” refers to all the frustrations he has about his father’s inability to straighten up and be a dad. As to Coach’s tactics, it’s been too long since I’ve read the book, so I can remember specifically. But think about it: how to he get the team members to try harder and not give up?

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  4. I can’t find out what page the quote “Trouble is, you can’t run away from yourself.” Coach snatched the towel from his shoulder, folded into a perfect square, and set it in the space between us. “Unfortunately,” he said, “ain’t nobody that fast.” is on can anyone help me?

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