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6 October 2016 GHOST by Jason Reynolds, Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum, August 2016, 192p., ISBN: 978-1-4814-5015-7


“She laid down the receiver beside the phone and walked out of the room. The voice went on talking. She came back into the room with a cleaver in her hand. With the cleaver she sliced through the connection, where the wires came out from the wall. The voice ceased.

“She put on a sweater and picked up the phone, putting the receiver back in its cradle to make it easier to carry, coiling the long wire up neatly. She left the house through the back door and made her way down through the barren vegetable garden, between the fields of marsh grasses, to the water. At the end of the dock, the little red boat rode choppy waves. She climbed down into it, lowered the outboard, untied the lines and headed out.

“The wind bit at her face and her ears, stung her bare hands. Spray hit her skin, like needles. At the town dock, she looped the line in a clove hitch and climbed up onto the wooden boards. Carrying the phone, she marched up the street to the telephone company. She stood for a moment in front of the big plate-glass window, as if studying the display of telephone models. Behind the display, people sat at desks.

“She lifted her hand and heaved the phone into the window. The glass cracked, shattered. Fragments sprayed out into the bitter air--diamond bright, diamond sharp. They flew up and around, like particles of firecrackers exploding.

“Abigail Tillerman didn’t stand there long. Her chin high, her skirt blown by the wind to tangle her legs, she turned and walked away.”

-- from THE RUNNER by Cynthia Voigt (1985)


I cannot read a book about running without recalling Bullet. He’s the angry young man in THE RUNNER, the prequel both to Cynthia Voigt’s HOMECOMING and its sequel, the Newbery Medal-winning DICEY’S SONG.


There are several ways in which Jason Reynolds’s GHOST connects to Cynthia Voigt’s THE RUNNER. First, both were published--a generation apart--by Atheneum. Second, both feature angry young men who have been traumatized by horrible fathers. And, third, both are written by authors whose mastery of the English language, and of the craft of writing, results in stories that are honest, gritty, and emotionally intense, despite the respective authors never once resorting to swear words.


As a result, I can highly recommend both of these exceptional tales about runners to teachers and librarians of ten year-olds as enthusiastically as I recommend their inclusion in collections serving adolescents.


Ghost’s real name is Castle Crenshaw. He gave himself his nickname three years ago:


“It was three years ago when my dad lost it. When the liquor made him meaner than he’s ever been. Every other night he would become a different person, like he’d morph into someone crazy, but this night my mother decided to finally fight back. This one night everything went worse. I had my head sandwiched  between the mattress and my pillow, something I got used to doing whenever they were going at it, when my mom crashed into my bedroom.

“‘We gotta go,’ she said, yanking the covers off the bed. And when I didn’t move fast enough, she yelled, ‘Come on!’

“Next thing I knew, she was dragging me down the hallway, my feet tripping over themselves. And that’s when I looked back and saw him, my dad, staggering from the bedroom, his lips bloody, a pistol in his hand.

“‘Don’t make me do this, Terri!’ he angry-begged, but me and my mom kept rolling. The sound of the gun cocking. The sound of the door unlocking. As soon as she swung the door open, my father fired a shot. He was shooting at us! My dad! My dad was actually shooting...at...US! His wife and his boy. I didn’t look to see what he hit, mainly because I was scared it was gonna be me. Or Ma. The sound was big, and sharp enough to make me feel like my brain was gonna pop in my head, enough to make my heart hiccup. But the craziest thing was, I felt like the loud shot made my legs move even faster. I don’t know if that’s possible, but that’s definitely what it seemed like.”


These days, Ghost is an angry young middle schooler. His father, whom he hasn’t seen since that night, received a ten-year sentence.


One afternoon, on the way home from school, Ghost comes upon an elite track team working out. After watching for a while, and annoyed by the fancy gear one of the team members is wearing, he dares to walk up to the track and challenge the runner to a race. The coach’s consternation over having his practice interrupted quickly evaporates when Ghost beats his star runner. At Coach’s urging, Ghost hesitantly agrees to join the team.


Ghost makes several terrible mistakes along the way but by being on the team, he suddenly gets a support system and finds himself trying not to screw up. Most importantly, Coach turns out to have more in common with Ghost than the teenager could ever imagine. Despite his frustration with Ghost’s missteps, Coach has the motivation and determination to be the father figure who is going to save Ghost from himself.


Ghost, who, in a sense has been running ever since that nightmare night, finds a way to start getting past his past.


“‘Get set!’ said the starter. Butts in the air. The sound of the gun cocking. The sound of the door unlocking. Heart pounding. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Silence. This. Is. It.

“And then...Boom!


Don’t miss it.


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Pickshttp://richiespicks.pbworks.com





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