Book Review by Aarene Storms: Ghosts

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

Catrina and her family move to Bahia de la Luna because Cat's little sister Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool salty air from the sea. Soon the girls and their family learn that the town and nearby mission is haunted--and the townspeople welcome the ghosts.

They even throw a big dia de los muertos party every year so they can enjoy music and dancing with the dead. Maya, aware that her disease will probably kill her sooner rather than later, is thrilled to meet the ghosts, but Cat isn't so sure. She doesn't want all these dead people to hurt her sister.

This sweet graphic novel story of friendship and family is beautifully illustrated in Telgemeier's signature style, with expressive characters and fun backdrops.

HOWEVER, the book (and the author) have been accused of cultural appropriation: the author is not Mexican-American, and yet her story centers around the Mexican tradition of welcoming the beloved dead.

As a storyteller, I do not stand firmly against cultural appropriation. If we forbid everyone from the outside a culture to look inside via stories, world peace would be truly impossible, and I don't believe that. This book centers around a young, culturally-mainstream American girl; although her abuela was Mexican, her mother rejected the Mexican culture as a teen and has raised her daughters away from Mexican traditions. Therefore, Cat's experience with the dia de los muertos tradition allows other non-Mexican readers to follow her as she learns.

This is a major goal of fiction: to bring the reader closer to something new, and this book achieves that goal.

Recommended for ages 8 to adult.

The events may not have happened; still, the story is true.
--R. Silvern

Aarene Storms, youth services librarian
Richmond Beach and Lake Forest Park Libraries, KCLS


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