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Ghost

Reynolds, Jason (Author)
Simon & Schuster 2016. 184 pages
First published: 2016
ISBN: 9781481450157 (hardcover)
9781481450164 (paperback)
9781481450171 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Novel
Book genre: Realistic

Text Elements:

characterization, conflict, dialogue, point of view, setting

Award

National Book Award Finalist – 2016

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Castle Cranshaw adopted the nickname Ghost after the first incident that showed him how fast he could run—being shot at by his father. When Ghost joins a local track team almost by accident, he begins to realize everything he’s running from: he gets teased at school and acts out; he loves his mom but resents the leftovers she brings home from her cafeteria job; and he’s ashamed of his poor neighbourhood, home haircut and cheap clothes. Coach Brody, who runs the Defenders, takes him under his wing. But Ghost keeps screwing up—he beats up one of his tormentors, cuts class and, when it’s clear that his jerry-rigged high-tops won’t cut it in the sprint, even shoplifts a pair of running shoes. But Coach sets him straight and works him hard. As the team bonds, Ghost begins to heal and to grow up, finally feeling “like I was there—really, really there—as me, but without as much scream inside.”

The arc of the novel is satisfying, culminating at the starting pistol of the Defenders’ first meet of the season. Ghost is a likeable first-person narrator and the secondary characters—the coach, Ghost’s mother, a local shopkeeper, the other runners—are individuated and compelling. The language is an unselfconscious African-American vernacular, imbued with Ghost’s poetic, wry way of seeing the world—describing his father, he notes, “Wasn’t no sunflowers growing in him.” Elsewhere, when a relay team drops their baton, he imagines that the clinking sound as it falls is “what losing sounded like.”

We never find out whether Ghost wins his first race, but by then, it doesn’t matter: he’s running for himself rather than away from himself.

  •  

    Before reading, with a partner, consider how a mentor or role model can change a person’s life. As you read, note who influences Ghost and the choices he makes.

  •  

    Discuss the role that trust plays in this novel. How does Ghost learn to trust others and himself?

  •  

    This story ends abruptly. Pick up where the author left off and write your own version of the outcome of Ghost’s race. Share your writing in a small group and be prepared to explain your choices.

  •  

    Form a group of four and debate the following topic: Discipline, practice and hard work trumps raw talent and drive, especially when it comes to running.

  •  As you read, keep track of Ghost’s friends and foes. Who pushes him to become better? How?
  •  

    Write a subsequent and final chapter for the book, describing the race, its outcome and Ghost’s reaction and subsequent decisions. Use the same narrator voice.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To cooperate with others
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Personal Development
  • Physical Education and Health
  • Social Sciences