Disclosure: I received a finished copy of the book from Pansing Books, a regional distributor, in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier • contains 240 pages • published by Graphix, Scholastic Inc. on September 13, 2016 • classified as Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Middle Grade • obtained through Pansing Books • read as paperback • shelve on Goodreads
Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn't happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister's sake — and her own.
I adore the artistic style of Raina Telgemeier. It’s simple yet distinct and absolutely fitting of her middle grade graphic novels. Ghosts is no exception. This book was her first venture into fantasy and her illustrations adapted well to convey the eerie atmosphere of the fictional rainy coastal town, Bahía de la Luna.
Immersion into Mexican Culture
Even though Catrina’s mother was Mexican, Cat didn’t previously learn much about her mother’s culture. Cat and her younger sister Maya were biracial and had a white father. Moving to a new town changed that as she made new friends who too were Mexican. She had the opportunity to explore the food and customs, which I found pretty engaging.
Raina Telgemeier artfully presented her fantastical tale around Día de los Muertos, the festival of the dead. It made for a slightly creepy but also colourful story, which was very heart-warming as well.
Living with Cystic Fibrosis
What particularly struck me was the inclusion of a terminal health condition, cystic fibrosis, which Maya had to grapple with. I think diverse representation is very important especially for younger readers, so I was heartened to see it terms of race, ethnicity and ability in Ghosts. Readers are introduced to what it is, and what the implications could be for someone affected by it. At the same time, Maya still was full of zest for life, sometimes even more so than her older sister, who felt she had to take care of her.
Ghosts is Worth Picking Up
I definitely recommend Ghosts for children aged 8 to 12 years. They’d find much joy in it, especially if their identities align. For others, it’d be a great way to learn more of a culture that differs from theirs. I also recommend it for anyone who hasn’t lost their childlike wonder.