Graphix/Scholastic, 2016 240 pgs.
Catrina is not a happy camper. Her family is uprooting from their southern California town to move to a northern coastal town for the sake of her sister's health. Maya is plagued with Cystic Fibrosis, a degenerating breathing disease with no cure.Bahia de la Luna is mostly foggy and very creepy. The town is famous for hosting a big Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead party at midnight on Halloween. The sisters meet Carlos, host of the town's ghost tour and cure boy-next-door. Maya and Carlos become fast friends and he helps her set up an alter in the living room to remember the family's deceased Abuela. Cat starts at her new school and eventually makes some new friends. Maya has a set-back with her illness while on a ghost hunting adventure with Cat and Carlos, which leaves her housebound. Halloween rolls around and with it Dia de los Muerto. Cat must face her fears of all things dead. She reluctantly attends the town's celebration and finds peace and healing with the other celebrants, both human and celestial. A friendship is finally formed with Carlos and maybe even a future romance. The book leaves us with no easy answers. Maya is not going to get better, but somehow the family has found a way, through connecting to the spirit world and Abuela, to find peace and acceptance.
What a perfect book to read on Dia de los Muertos! I have been on the reserve list at my library for this new title by one of my favorite authors and it just was luck of the draw that I received it at such a perfect time. Raina does it again with her latest heartfelt story, loosely drawing again from her childhood. As with other Telgemeier books, the story is told effortlessly in a perfect marriage of images and text, working together to convey a seemingly simple story, yet one with many layers. A sad situation is faced by our protagonist, who lives life safely and fearfully. Her sister is the chance taker. Cat must learn to process her fears and stress and move ahead with the business of living a life that she has little control over. I love that this story is set in a predominately Latino community in a Californian town that is not warm and sunny, like we assume California to be, but foggy and gloomy. Readers unfamiliar with Dia de los Muertos will learn about the holiday and perhaps find healing with their own grief. Reading this story has definitely encouraged me to next year find a celebration close to home to attend, because the holiday looks to be so fun, interesting, and unusual. Telgemeier's colorful illustrations reflect the joy and beautiful patchwork of images associated with this holiday and the contrast between the foggy day-to-day life in this coastal town and the warm celebration of Dia de los Muerto is heartily felt and experienced by the reader. As we try to bring more diversity to literature for young people and celebrate the wonderful melting pot that is the United States, Ghosts is a welcome addition.