Southwest Children's  Literature

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Ghost Fever/Mal de fantasma

The booktalk and discussion were held at the Martha Cooper Branch of Pima County Public Library on October 22, 2008. The event was originally described and advertised as a teen event, which focused on sharing ghost stories. We wanted to share our ghost story, but we also wanted to create a space to talk about ghosts in general and invite others to share their ghost stories; we also felt that this discussion would be timely in that Halloween was approaching. We displayed other books which focused on ghost stories, spirits, and The Day of the Dead for people to peruse or check out.

When the time came for the event, we only had three teens show up and one left fairly quickly. However, we had many younger children interested in joining the event. In the spirit of inclusiveness, we quickly reviewed our discussion questions and decided to go for it. We had created a form with four questions and spaces for students to write their ideas and answers. Most of the children participating in the booktalk were between nine and twelve years old, although we did have one child who may have been as young as six or seven.

We had divided our booktalk into short segments which we interspersed with passages we read from the book. We elicited feedback and discussion from the group as we went through our talk and read various passages.

The four questions we asked and had time to discuss were:
1. What do you think Abuelita's (the grandmother's) advice was?
2. Do you think everybody has the ability to see ghosts? Why or why not?
3. What do you think happens next?
4. What do you think everyone should know about ghosts?

Children's Voices

Unfortunately, none of the children agreed to have their work or thoughts directly quoted here. As such, we will speak in generalities without disclosing personal information of the youth. We did have a lively discussion with a range of opinions shared. Some believed in ghosts; some didn't. Some had seen ghosts; most hadn't.

Question 1: Generally speaking, most youth thought the grandmother's advice was a warning and caution to prevent her granddaughter from being harmed.

Question 2: The range of answers were very diverse when the youth discussed their opinions about the ability to see ghosts. One girl told her story of actually seeing friendly ghosts and how she played with them when she was younger. Some children felt that ghosts could only be seen by specific people, such as psychics or fortune-tellers. Others were doubtful if ghosts existed because they had never seen one firsthand. Interestingly, most of the youth (whether they had seen a ghost or not) believed they were real in some capacity.

Question 3: The responses in speculating what happened next in the story (after the protagonist heard frightening sounds) were very creative and even a little gory. For example, a few thought the ghost would kill either Elena (the protagonist) or her father. Others thought Elena would leave her bedroom, actively pursue the sounds and see the ghost. Only one person thought the main character might pretend to ignore the sounds and stay huddled in her bed.

Question 4: The majority of youth felt that ghosts had positive and negative characteristics -- just like humans. Some children said ghosts were essentially monsters, while others claimed ghosts were walking amongst humans as transparent and (sometimes) invisible beings.