Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
Published by Scholastic in 2016.
This book took me a long time to get to. It happened to come out during my book fair in November, and I book talked it during our raffle and so many kids jumped on the waitlist for my libray copies! It’s take me this long to for it it be back on the shelf!
Catrina and her family are moving to Bahia de la Luna because the air will be better for Catrina’a sister Maya to breathe. Catrina misses her friends, but is hoping that that her sister can be healthier. As they wander around, they meet Carlos who gives ghost tours. Maya is so excited about the idea of meeting a ghost. Cat is not. Telgemeirer doesn’t shy away from the reality of degenerative conditions.
Page 72, Dying isn’t pretend. It’s real.
Carlos realizes that Maya’s best chance of meeting a ghost is by going to the mission. Once there, Carlos explains that ghosts need a little encouragement to interact with the living. They love the smell of foods, and need a breath from a living person before they can speak. The ghosts are so excited by Maya’s youthful energy that she’s overwhelmed by their attention. Carlos and Cat have to run her to the hospital.
Months pass, and Cat is still angry at Carlos for endangering her sister. She goes to school as her sister recovers, starts making friends, and worries about when and if Maya will recover. Her mother reminds her that Cystic Fibrosis is something that gets worse over time, not better.
Dia de los Muertos rolls around and Maya has to stay in. Cat ends up going trick or treating with her friends, then they go to the party downtown. Cat realizes that ghosts are not terrible and finds a way to share them with her sister.
I love that literature opens the door for hard conversations. Even in a happy, fun graphic novel, these issues that we really don’t want to deal with can be discussed. In these books Maya’s CF doesn’t define her, but it’s still THERE. Life is like that. We all have a perspective that colors the way we view the world, but it is only a small part of who we are.
My only complaint is that the ghosts are protrayed as constantly happy, like eager puppies grateful for attention. Several others have pointed out that California missions have a complex history and many of the ghosts wouldn’t have been pleasant. I understand that sometimes we are restricted by story length and sometimes it’s hard to add nuance to everything. If we are able to generalize things in stories, (like all ghosts are nice and helpful), it becomes easier to generalize things in real life and encourages stereotyping.