Ghost Boys

Ghost Boys

By Author / Illustrator

Jewell Parker Rhodes


Representation & Inclusion

Age range(s)



Hachette Children's Group




Paperback / softback




A heartbreaking and powerful story about a black boy killed by a white police officer, drawing connections with real-life, from award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes.

Twelve-year-old Jerome doesn't get into trouble. He goes to school. He does his homework. He takes care of his little sister.  Then Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat.

As a ghost, watching his family trying to cope with his death, Jerome begins to notice other ghost boys.  Each boy has a story and they all have something in common... Bit by bit, Jerome begins to understand what really happened - not just to him, but to all of the ghost boys.

A poignant and gripping story about how children and families face the complexities of race and racism in today's world.

Q&A with author Jewell Parker Rhodes



Ghost Boys is an extraordinary, hard-hitting story, about a black boy killed by a white policeman in an American city. It is strongly reminiscent of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, in that the narrator is the dead child. But this book is suitable for children in Year 6 and upwards, though it should be treated with caution and possibly tackled as a whole class as the story is incredibly powerful and heart-breaking and my ten-year-old was extremely sobered after reading it. Technically it is an 'easy read' in that readability is not difficult, with short chapters, but this is very far from being easy to read.

12-year-old Jerome is a 'good' boy. He never gets into trouble, he comes from a loving, close family, does his homework and takes care of his little sister. One day he is shot by a white police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real one. As a ghost, Jerome starts to realise he is not alone, that there are many, many ghost boys, all killed for being black. Some of these boys are real children; children in this country might not know their names but there is an afterword that gives a bit more information about them, as well as a list of further resources.

This is a story about race, timely in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. It also looks at the impact on the white officer and his family and it makes it clear that no-one is left untouched by these events. Jerome watches as his family fall apart and he is unable to help them. Their grief is simply written but all the more powerful. 'I watch my family crying, talking in whispers... I can't think of anything worse than watching my family hurt.'

This is a must-read book, an opportunity to talk about race, as well as an emotional and involving story.

224 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher.

Suggested Reading Age 11+


Jerome is a 12-year-old boy. He does what he is told and gets on with life. Every day he goes to school where he is confronted by bullies. He has his troubles, yet he is never in trouble. That is until he is killed by a policeman. A white policeman. Jerome was black.

Just typing those words brings emotions flooding back. This is not a difficult read in terms of readability, but it is still a thought-provoking and challenging read. A phrase from Martin Luther King's famous speech was imprinted on my mind as I read the story - the sweltering heat of injustice. Because at its heart, this is a book about injustice. There were points when I was seething with anger, not just at the book but at the fact Jerome's death could easily happen in the real world.

Yet the masterstroke is that here we have a book that challenges the reader. We see how the police officer's family is also torn apart by Jerome's death. We see that there are no winners when events like this happen. We also see how ingrained prejudice can be. It made me sit up and consider how my life and opinions have been shaped. I'm not ashamed to say that I welled up with emotions (and am now that I'm typing).

By the end of the book one message stand out: it is up to the living to change the world. So Jewell Parker Rhodes's challenge is clear; what are you, as a reader, doing to prevent injustice? It isn't good enough to sit back and pretend it isn't your problem.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is perfect to complement high profile campaigns like Black Lives Matter. It's safe to say that Ghost Boys is definitely a book I would share with mature children in my class and perhaps use as a whole class text.

224 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Matt Davies

Suggested Reading Age 11+


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