Friday, February 17, 2017

Cybils Middle Grade Fiction Winner: Ghost (Book #1 of Track) by Jason Reynolds


Eight-grader Castle Cranshaw has called himself Ghost ever since the night three years ago that his father tried to shoot him and his mom. Hiding in the corner of his favorite store, the owner said they looked like two ghosts because of how scared they were. And that was also the night Ghost learned to run and he's really fast.

So it isn't surprising that when he comes across a group of students practicing track, he unofficially runs along with them. The team's coach knows natural talent when he sees it, and invites Ghost to join the team, the Defenders.

The next day there is an 'altercation' at school and Ghost is told to call his mother to pick him up. Suspended half a day for fighting, Ghost knows he can't call his mother at work, so he pulls out Coach Brody's card, says it's his uncle and calls him at work (Coach drives a cab when not coaching). Coach agrees to pick him up but under one condition - if Ghost messes up in school one time, he's off the team, a condition that Ghost's mom can accept as well.

It doesn't take long for Ghost to find that he really likes running track with the team, even as he finds it physically challenging, especially since he's running in a pair of old high tops instead of proper running shoes.

But he solves that problem when he steals a pair of expensive running shoes he has been trying on from a local store. Oh, yes, the 'altercations' in school haven't exactly stopped, either. And then, just before their first big race, Coach finds out about how Ghost acquired his fancy running shoes. Coach Brody may be a real hard-nose, but he holds on to Ghost, showing him the right way to run and, more importantly, the right way to live.

Told in the first person by Ghost, there is humor, drama and suspenseful anticipation in his story. But, there is also trauma. After his father chased him and his mom out of the house, and down the street in a drunken rage and with the intention of killing them, Ghost hasn't really stopped running - from his life and for his life. Bothered and bullied at school for living in the projects, for not being as nicely dressed as the other kids in his middle school, Ghost is accustomed to lashing out at those around him. But as he gets to know Coach Brody better, Ghost sees that there just might be a better way to handle all the scream inside him.

I think the use of running as a coming of age metaphor is brilliant. As Reynolds has said, that name Castle gives himself, Ghost, means running so fast no one can see you, which is just what Castle wants as the book begins. But, as he trains and turns into a more polished runner, readers also witness Ghost literally running from his old life and into a new one, one in which he does indeed want to be seen and recognized.

Ghost is the first book in Jason Reynolds' projected Track series and it is one of the best reading surprises I've had in a while.

An excellent Reading Guide for Ghost is available from the publisher, Simon & Schuster, HERE

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

FEBRUARY IS BLACK HISTORY MONTH

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