Ghost Boys

Written by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Readers Theater

Informational Resources:

Author Information:

Jewell Parker-Rhodes website:

Jewell Parker-Rhodes biography:

Activities & Resources:


Ghost Boys educator guide (Little, Brown and Jewell Parker-Rhodes website):

Learn and Make a Difference:

Create a book club and follow Jewell Parker-Rhodes’ book club guide (Hachette Books website):

Click to access ghost-boys-book-club-guide.pdf

Teaching Tolerance has great resources for teachers and librarians to learn more about racial discrimination and how to approach this topic in schools:

Information to help you have a discussion about race with your students:

Interview with Marley Dias, young founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks (Forbes Magazine)

Emmett Till:

Find out more about Emmett Till:

Find out how the death of Emmett Till inspired a movement:

Read a powerful poem about Emmett Till. The poet, Marilyn Nelson, shared the poem from her book A Wreath for Emmett Till on NPR:

Write a poem for Emmett Till, Jerome, or someone else who has been treated unfairly.


Information for kids about what to do if they are being bullied or have witnessed other students being bullied:

Students can create posters that spread an anti-bullying message. The posters can be posted throughout the school or community.

MakerSpace Activities:

Students can interview people in the community who have made a difference. They can video the interview or create an audio recording using an iPad app like GarageBand or VoiceThread, or other apps like Vocaroo or Twisted Wave.

Create a short video about the importance of bearing witness.

Create posters to spread important call to action messages.

Write a blackout poem. Make a copy of one of the pages in the book that reflect the theme of bearing witness or being seen (for example: page 181 or page 160). The poem is created by blacking out all the words except for the words that connect to the theme.

The Quilted Heart Project purpose to spread kindness by making hearts and leaving them around school:

Discussion Questions:

What do you think about the pages that have one word: alive, dead? Why do you think  the author chose to identify different parts of the story with these words?

How does Jerome react when he realizes he has been shot?

The opening scene when Jerome is killed is described by Jerome. Why do you think the author chose to have Jerome describe his death?

Why does Jerome say “doesn’t seem fair…I skated by. Kept my head low. Now I’m famous” (p. 4)? Describe a time you tried to do the right thing and still got in trouble.

The story jumps back and forth between the days leading up to Jerome’s death and Jerome as a ghost. Why do you think Jewell Parker Rhodes used this writing technique?

Before Jerome heads to school, his grandmother asks him to share 3 good things. Why do you think Grandma uses the number 3? Do you or anyone in your family have any superstitions or daily traditions they follow?

We only see Kim, Jerome’s sister, a few times in the story. How do we know that Jerome loves his sister? If you have siblings, do you see similarities with Jerome and Kim’s relationship?

We find out at the beginning of the novel that Jerome is being bullied. Why doesn’t Jerome tell his parents about the bullies? Why doesn’t Kim?

To avoid the bullies, Jerome hides in the bathroom. He hopes the bullies will “find another target…just like [he] hope(s) [he will] win the lottery” (p 16). Why does he compare the bullies finding a new target to the winning the lottery?

When Jerome visits his home as a ghost he notices that the kitchen table is covered with food. People bringing and sharing food after a loved one has passed away is common. Why is food seen as something comforting?

At the funeral Jerome runs in to the ghost boy. He asks him who he is, and the ghost says, “someone I wish you didn’t know” (p 30). How does Jerome know this ghost? Who is he?

Jerome notices that the daughter of the police officer can see him. Why do you think Sarah can see Jerome? Why is Jerome mad that Sarah is the one person who can see him as a ghost?

Jerome ends up at Sarah’s house. Why did he feel the need to visit Sarah?

Jerome tells Sarah what happened, and when she apologizes Jerome gets mad. Why?

Sarah and Jerome have tough conversations about race and racism. Why does it seem to be easier for them to talk about racism than the adults in their life? Write about a time when you had a tough conversation with a friend.

Although difficult for Jerome, why does Jerome need to witness the trial?

Why do you think Sarah can see both Jerome and Emmett Till?

After Jerome’s death Carlos watches out for Kim. Why does Carlos feel the need to watch over and protect Jerome’s little sister?

What do you learn about Emmett Till? Why is he Jerome’s guide once he is a ghost? How else is Jerome’s story similar to Emmett Till’s story?

Emmett Till tells Jerome that it is important to “bear witness” (p 161). What does bear witness mean? How can a person bear witness?

Book Talk Teasers:

Use the Ghost Boys reader’s theater to introduce the main conflict of the novel.

Watch the Ghost Boys book trailer on the Texas Bluebonnet Award website. What questions does the trailer raise that makes you want to read the book?:

Read Alikes:

Emmett Till:

Nelson, Marilyn. A Wreath for Emmett Till. A sequence of fifteen interlinked sonnets pay tribute to a young man who sparked the Civil Rights Movement in 1955 Mississippi–fourteen-year-old Emmitt Till, an African-American boy who was lynched for whistling at a white woman, and whose murderers were acquitted. (NoveList Plus)

Williams Jackson, Linda. Midnight Without a Moon. Rose Lee Carter, a thirteen-year-old African-American girl, dreams of life beyond the Mississippi cotton fields during the summer of 1955, but when Emmett Till is murdered and his killers are unjustly acquitted, Rose is torn between seeking her destiny outside of Mississippi or staying and being a part of an important movement. (NoveList Plus)

Righting Wrongs:

Beasley, Cassie. Tumble & Blue. In order for Tumble Wilson and Blue Montgomery to fix their ancestors’ mistakes and banish the bad luck that has followed them around for all of their lives, they must face Munch, the mysterious golden alligator who cast the curse centuries ago. (NoveList Plus)

Gilbert Murdock, Catherine. The Book of Boy. In 1350, a boy with a large hump on his back becomes the servant of a shadowy pilgrim on his way to Rome, who pulls the boy into a dangerous expedition across Europe to gather the seven precious relics of Saint Peter. (NoveList Plus)

Unlikely Friendships:

Kelly, Erin Entrada. Hello, Universe. Lives of four misfits are intertwined when a bully’s prank lands shy Virgil at the bottom of a well and Valencia, Kaori, and Gen band together in an epic quest to find and rescue him. (NoveList Plus)

Resau, Laura. The Lightning Queen. On the Hill of Dust, in the remote mountains of Mexico, an eleven-year-old Mixtec boy called Teo lives with his family and the animals that he has healed, but one day a Romany caravan rolls into town with a young girl who calls herself Esma, the Gypsy Queen of Lightning–it is the beginning of a life-long friendship that will change both their lives. (NoveList Plus)

Schmidt, Gary. Okay for Now. While Doug struggles to be more than the thug that his teachers and the police think him to be, he finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer, as they explore Audubon’s art. (NoveList)

Spinelli, Jerry. Eggs. Mourning the loss of his mother, nine-year-old David forms an unlikely friendship with independent, quirky thirteen-year-old Primrose, as the two help each other deal with what is missing in their lives. (NoveList Plus)

Uss, Christina. The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle. Left at the Mostly Silent Monastery as a toddler and home-schooled by a retired nun, twelve-year-old Bicycle rides cross-country to meet a famous cyclist who she hopes will be her first friend. (NoveList Plus)

Discovering One’s Past:

Eagar, Lindsay. Hour of the Bees. At first, twelve-year-old Carol is not happy to be spending the summer helping her parents move her grandfather to an assisted living home, but as the summer wears on, she finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by his amazing stories. (NoveList Plus)

Birney, Betty G. Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs. Living in his boring town, Eben McAllister begrudgingly accepts his father’s challenge to locate the Seven Wonders in Sassafras in order to win the prize of a family trip to Colorado and, in the process, discovers the magic that lies within his community that he had never taken notice of before. (NoveList Plus)

McGhee, Alison. Pablo & Birdy. Pablo, nearly ten, has many questions about his origins and how he arrived at Isla as a baby, but finding the answers may mean losing his lifetime companion, Birdy the parrot. (NoveList Plus)

Sedgwick, Julian. The Black Dragon. Talented magician Danny, who is half-Chinese, half-British, and dwarf strongman Zamora try to find the connection between the disastrous end of the circus Mysterium, where Danny’s performer parents were killed, and the disappearance of his guardian aunt, who is investigating sinister gangs in Hong Kong.( NoveList Plus)

Fight for Social Justice:

Beals, Melba. March Forward, Girl: From Young Warrior to Little Rock Nine. From the legendary civil rights activist and author of the million-copy selling Warriors Don’t Cry comes a powerful, timely new memoir about growing up in the segregated South. Civil rights heroine Melba Patillo Beals puts readers right in her saddle oxfords as she struggles to understand—and fight back against—the laws that told her she was less just because of the color of her skin. Includes photos and illustrations. (NoveList Plus)

Giovanni, Nikki. Rosa. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks boarded a Montgomery, Alabama city bus and refused to give up her seat to a white man, an act that ignited a movement that changed modern history. (NoveList Plus)

Williams Jackson, Linda. A Sky Full of Stars. In Stillwater, Missippi, in 1955, thirteen-year-old African American Rose Lee Carter looks to her family and friends to understand her place in the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement. (NoveList Plus)


Rhodes, Jewell Parker.  Ghost Boys. Little Brown and Company, 2018.


Ghost Boys. (Starred)

Rhodes, Jewell Parker (author).

Apr. 2018. 192p. Little, Brown, $16.99 (9780316262286); Little, Brown, e-book, $9.99 (9780316262255). Grades 5-8.

REVIEW. First published February 1, 2018 (Booklist).

Jerome, a young black boy gunned down while playing in a park with a toy gun, invites readers to bear witness to his story, to the tragedy of being dispatched simply because of a policeman’s internalized prejudice masquerading as fear. One day at school, while he and his new friend Carlos are being bullied, Carlos pulls out a toy gun to scare their attackers. Afterward, he gives it to Jerome so he can have a chance to play with it, to pretend that he is in charge. But when he is shot in the back while running from the police, his soul leaves his body and he becomes one of the army of ghost boys hoping to communicate with those still consumed with racial bias. While looking in on the preliminary court hearing, Jerome realizes that the police officer’s daughter can see and talk to him, and together they try to understand how the world around them could be so cruel. Rhodes (Sugar, 2013; Towers Falling, 2016) beautifully weaves together the fictional and the historical—Jerome comes across the ghosts of real-life individuals like Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin—in this gripping and all-too-necessary novel about police brutality, injustice, and the power of bearing witness to the stories of those who are gone. — Rob Bittner

Used with the permission of Booklist

School Library Journal (January 1, 2018) 

Gr 4-8-The Towers Falling author once again tackles a timely yet difficult subject. In Chicago, 12-year-old black youth Jerome is shot and killed by a white police officer who mistakes a toy gun for a real one. As a ghost, Jerome witnesses the aftermath gripping both his family and that of the police officers. Jerome also meets another ghost-that of Emmett Till, a black boy murdered in 1955. Through Till’s story, he learns of the hundreds of other “ghost boys” left to roam and stop history from continually repeating itself. The only person who can see Jerome is the daughter of the white police officer, Sarah, and through her eyes, he realizes that his family isn’t the only one affected by the tragedy. Two families are destroyed with one split decision, and Sarah and Jerome together try to heal both of their families, along with Jerome’s friend Carlos. It was Carlos’ toy gun that Jerome was playing with, leaving Carlos with great guilt and the intense desire to protect Jerome’s little sister, Kim, from bullies and other sorrows. Deftly woven and poignantly told, this a story about society, biases both conscious and unconscious, and trying to right the wrongs of the world. VERDICT Rhodes captures the all-too-real pain of racial injustice and provides an important window for readers who are just beginning to explore the ideas of privilege and implicit bias.-Michele Shaw, Quail Run -Elementary School, San Ramon, CA © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.   

Reprinted with permission from School Library Journal ©2018