I had debated on whether to use this title for October or November, but ultimately I decided to save it for now because it fits the theme so well. I love Raina Telgemeier’s work anyway, but Ghosts may truly be her best yet.
Catrina and her family move to Northern California, hoping the climate will be better for her little sister Maya’s cystic fibrosis. Catrina struggles to adapt to her new home, as well as come to grips that humans aren’t the only ones living there. Supposedly, the town is full of ghosts. Maya wants desperately to meet a ghost, while Catrina wants to deny that it’s even possible. Things come to a head in some truly moving sequences as the sisters connect with their neighbors, both alive and dead.
I love the interplay between Catrina and her neighbors, as well as how she reacts to her little sister. As an older sibling, myself, that relationship strikes me as especially real. Truly, the whole book just feels so authentic and written from a great place, right down to the Day of the Dead Celebration that’s the climax of the story. It’s also really interesting to see a book where most of the cast accepts the existence of ghosts – not just as possibility, but as fact. As in, they throw a party for the ghosts every year and the ghosts show up and they all hang out in a big block party type scenario. It’s one of those situations that I probably played pretend with (but in a different context) as a kid, so it’s super cool to see it played straight and done well here.
Catrina’s reactions to the supernatural are understandable, especially because it all leads back to her fear of losing her sister- something that’s entirely possible. Still, Maya doesn’t exist just to be sick, which is an important point. She’s her own character, and incredibly lively despite her illness. She’s a great foil for Catrina, and together the siblings really give a young reader two good gateways into this story.
The art is fun and lovely and moves the story along well. I love how vivid the scenes are, and it definitely gives you a lot to look at even if you’re just perusing the book. That being said, all of the illustrations really build a nice momentum and accentuate the relationships between the characters, which is what I really like to see in a graphic novel. I want to feel things through the illustrations more than I might from just words on a page, and that’s something Telgemeier is wonderful at delivering.
The end scene, too, is just fantastic, and something that really was the icing on this awesome cake of a book. This is easily suitable for late elementary and above. Definitely check it out!
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