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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Ghosts, by Raina Telgemeier. Scholastic, 2016. $13.99 ages 8 and up

"This wind is crazy!

The ghosts love it, though.

They can't breathe on their
own, so they absorb the
essence of the world
breathing around them.
That's why you see more
ghosts on windy days.

So are these, um,
friends of yours?"

I was a fan of comics when I was an adolescent ... Archie comics, that is. I spent a few years living vicariously through those characters. I still love all things Charles Schulz, Bill Watterson, Gary Larson and Lynn Johnston. I was not the mom who read comics to my kids (too much explaining) and I still don't read the comics in the newspaper. So, I was rarely pulled toward reading graphic novels. Too much really good stuff to read, I said. I am all right with admitting mistakes in judgement. Authors like Ben Hatke, Luke Pearson, Geoffrey Hayes made me take notice of some of their amazing work. Then, Raina Telgemeier! I read Smile (Scholastic, 2010) and that set me on a course to keep watch for each new novel she writes. That brings me to her latest!

It is another delight, and sure to please her many fans! Cat and her family have moved to Bahia de la Luna, a place in northern California where the sea air will be better for her younger sister Maya, who has cystic fibrosis. As they explore their new surroundings, the two make some discoveries that are both exciting and disconcerting. It is a town where ghosts are real. The ghosts respond to kindness, offering friendship when they are treated well.

As the Day of the Dead celebrations ramp up, Maya wants to be right in the middle of  everything. The ghosts can't breathe on their own; readers recognize that they are much like Maya. The ghosts are not frightening; in fact, they remain blobs until a connection can be made with them. Keeping those who have died alive through memories and ghostly visits makes the celebration most enjoyable. The scarier part of the story comes not from the ghosts but from Maya's illness. Cat worries while Maya rejoices in each new experience. Their visits with the ghosts bring an awareness to the sisters concerning the future - they begin to acknowledge that Maya's life may be short. Together they learn that sadness is inevitable, but the love they have for each other will never die.

Again, the story is drawn so beautifully. Moods affect the color tones used, and expression and emotion play a huge role in balancing the joy and sadness in its many pages. Backmatter offers a 'few notes' about the book, including information about Bahia de la Luna, Dia De Los Muertos, and cystic fibrosis. A photo of the author and early sketches drawn for this newest book are included.

Emotional and engaging, fans of the remarkable Ms.Telgemeier will be thrilled to have it in their hands."

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