Graphic Novel Review | Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

ghosts-graphic-novel-review-paiges-pagesTITLE: Ghosts
AUTHOR: Raina Telgemeier
PUBLISHER: Scholastic
RELEASE DATE: September 13, 2016
GENRE: Junior Graphic Novel

Ghosts is a heartwarming graphic novel that celebrates life… even after death.  Featuring a cast of differently abled and racially diverse characters, it is a colourful and timely story that will inspire conversation between parents and junior readers.

Cat is an introvert while her little sister Maya loves to sing and dance her heart out.  However, Maya’s cystic fibrosis means she is often out of breath.  When their family moves to the coastal town of Bahía de la Luna for Maya’s health, Cat is sad to swap sunshine and friends for a foggy town obsessed with the afterlife.  After all, ghosts aren’t real…  Right?

Cat and Maya are vibrant, endearing characters.  From Cat’s point of view, we get a glimpse of the everyday challenges of having a chronically ill family member – how something so foreign to one family can be the normal routine to another.  I found the dynamic of this bi-racial family totally believable – “tween” Cat insecure and overprotective, fearless Maya bursting with positive energy, and their parents braving daily life with the support of their new community.

Although I didn’t pick up on the metaphor during my first read, Raina Telgemeier explains in her author’s note that her idea for Ghosts revolved around breath.  Reflecting on the story, I can see this motif woven throughout.  Maya’s illness means she often loses her breath, while Cat can’t slow down long enough to catch her breath and take in the beauty of the world around her.  Furthermore, the ghosts need a breath from a living person or they get winded.  This cycle shows the importance of pausing to appreciate, love, and give – actions that grow community and connection between people who are familiar with grief and loss.

The art of Ghosts is utterly adorable and appropriately cartoonish to lure young readers.  I loved poring over the colours and detail.  I also enjoyed the racial diversity represented in the illustrations – how colourful a crowd of people really is (nothing like the cherrypicked representations of diversity in TV and films).  I found Ghosts an accurate representation of the way races and cultures harmonise in my own local community.  I feel that this representation in a junior graphic novel will help junior readers see racial and cultural diversity as normal and expected, rather than “Other”.

While Ghosts is about death and loss, this book is joyful at heart.  It mindfully approaches loaded topics, while laying a foundation for families to talk together.


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