As my 9th graders walk in today, I greet them with a smile and friendly hello. A few students peak at what’s in my hands: Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes. It’s my book-talk title for the day, and they know it. When the bell rings, I begin.
“How many of you remember who Emmett Till is?” A bunch of hands go up and a few Ooh! Ooh! Oohs! are shared before I call on Kevin*.
“He’s that boy who was murdered by three men for whistling at a white woman,” Kevin replied.
“Yes. Thank you Kevin. Well, the 12-year-old main character in Ghost Boys, Jerome, meets the ghost of Emmett Till.” A few confused looks appear as I continue. “You see, Jerome was shot and killed by a police officer who believed that he was carrying a gun. Jerome was carrying a gun, but it was a toy gun. He was playing in an abandoned lot with it when the police showed up. After Jerome dies, he meets Emmett Till, who helps Jerome try to process what happened. Jerome also meets the police officer’s daughter, who is also trying to process what her father did.”
I open up the book and read the first three pages. The students are hooked. A few pens enter hands as they add the title to their to-read list.
“I like how this sounds a little like All American Boys, but also different,” says Kevin.
“You’re right, Kevin. There are some similarities, but Ghost Boys is it’s own story. Author Jewell Parker Rhodes was alive when Emmett Till was killed, so that event, and the much more recent death of Tamir Rice, were two events that inspired this book.”
A few more questions are asked, and then students begin picking up their own books to begin reading. Kevin, who doesn’t have his book today, asks, “Mrs. K, can I read Ghost Boys for today? It sounds amazing!”
I hand him the book and he quickly gets started. Another reader sucked in to reading by the power of a book talk.
*Student’s name was changed to protect his privacy.