Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.
Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father’s actions.
Once again Jewell Parker Rhodes deftly weaves historical and socio-political layers into a gripping and poignant story about how children and families face the complexities of today’s world, and how one boy grows to understand American blackness in the aftermath of his own death.
**As you read this novel, it's important to hear from Dr. Parker Rhodes herself regarding why she chose to write this book, and what she hopes the reader gains. From this interview:
"Every child everywhere deserves to have a childhood. It is a betrayal of innocence and trust when adults who have a responsibility to protect and nurture children instead harm or murder them. This is tragic. Yet, as a writer I believe words have the power to shape the world. I believe today’s youth are going to make the world better. These two beliefs inspire me to write about resilience and to mirror children’s unlimited capacity for compassion, empathy, and love. As an author I bear witness, my characters bear witness, and I know my readers will bear witness to the belief that everyone’s story needs to be told and in the telling, we can cauterize grief and pain and transform it into a force for good.
Though I write about tough subjects, kids know that my stories are also infused with kindness, hope, and, ultimately, it empowers them. As the ghost boy Jerome says: “Only the living can make the world better. Live and make it better.” That is the clarion call I believe all children want to hear: “Live…. Make the world better.”
It is essential for adults not to patronize kids. They are far more sophisticated and knowledgeable about inequities in the world. More importantly, in a few short years they will be adults voting and participating in our civic discourse. Before that time, young readers need opportunities to discuss significant issues with their family members and in their school community."--Dr. Jewell Parker Rhodes
**For educators & caring adults: this podcast helps unpack the premise of the novel in ways that provide additional insights into the depth of topics discussed**
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On December 14th, we will talk about mental health in Black communities. Please sign up to join us, particularly as you read along with us.