All Ages

Community Connections – Author Feature – Jewell Parker Rhodes

November 16, 2020 | Community

I believe words have power…

It is my hope that Ghost Boys will remind young people that they have the power to reshape the world based upon their wondrous love and ability to see the common humanity in one another. Continuing to read, to think, and write critically will give children the power to diminish prejudice and create a more socially just world.

As adults, we haven’t finished the civil rights journey; but, I believe our youth will. For them, I wrote Ghost Boys...

In Ghost Boys, Jerome Barnes is a twelve-year-old black youth who is murdered by a white police officer. As a ghost, Jerome sees the devastation that his death has brought to his family and to his community. He also sees another ghost boy, Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955. Jerome learns that he is part of a tribe of ghost boys wandering the streets searching for someone who can see and listen to them.

Drawing upon the tradition of “bearing witness,” Jerome looks for someone to tell his story to. He tells it to Sarah, the white police officer’s daughter. To my mind, Sarah represents the next generation of youth who will help create a multi-generational, multi-ethnic coalition against injustice. Jerome asks Emmett who did he tell his tale to. Emmett answers, “A lawyer with a funny name. Thurgood. Thurgood Marshall.” Thurgood Marshall, of course, became a great civil rights advocate and the first African American on the Supreme Court.

Just as Jerome “bears witness” to advocate for change, readers are empowered to “be the change” and to tell and retell stories to make our communities safe and just for everyone.

Jerome reminds each of us: “Only the living can make the world better. So, live and make it better.”

Love & Best Wishes,

Jewell Parker Rhodes, NEW BOOK JOY Guest Author

About the Author

Jewell Parker Rhodes

has written numerous children’s and adult books hoping to inspire social justice, equality, and environmental stewardship. She enjoys teaching, walking her Toy Aussie Sheepdogs, theater, dancing, and music.

Born in Pittsburgh, she now lives in Seattle and currently serves as the Piper Endowed Chair and founding artistic director of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University.

Her most recent novel, Ghost Boys, quickly became a New York Times Best Seller and has garnered over 25 awards and honors, including The Walter Award, the Indies Choice/EB White Read-Aloud Award, and the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for Older Readers.

Jewell is also the author of Towers Falling, winner of the 2017 Notable Books for a Global Society, and the celebrated Louisiana Girls’ Trilogy: Ninth Ward, a winner of a Coretta Scott King Honor Award; Sugar, a Junior Library Guild selection, and Bayou Magic, a We Need Diverse Books Educational Selection.

Her newest middle grade novel, Black Brother, Black Brother was published in March 2020.

You can read more about her, her books, and find tons of free teaching resources on her website


What authors help YOU & your family connect with your community?

Let’s get a conversation started in the comments below!

Readings & Resources

Below you’ll find books and activities that are appropriate for various ages around the concept of “Community Connections.”


Family Book Club – Community Connections: Pre-K & Kindergarten

Family Book Club – Community Connections: First & Second Grade

Family Book Club – Community Connections: Third, Fourth & Fifth Grade

Family Book Club – Community Connections: Middle School

Family Book Club – Community Connections: High School

Don’t miss out on NEW BOOK JOY!