Literature Circles

La-la-la LIT Circle! Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier


Ghosts is Raina Telgemeier’s new graphic novel. It is brilliant in its complex display of sibling relationships, between Cat and Maya.  The younger daughter Maya has cystic fibrosis so the family decides to move to Northern California for the fresh ocean air. Their new neighbors, the Calaberases are–like Maya’s mother–of Mexican descent, but have not assimilated to the degree that Maya’s mother has. Carlos Calavera, their son, shows the two sisters the town’s haunted mission, but when Maya ends up hospitalized, Cat is angry, blames Carlos, and worries that Maya will soon be gone forever.

Despite its storytelling brilliance, there has been controversy around this bestseller. Education professor Laura Jimenez remarked most stridently about the inaccuracy of the surname Calavera and the equating of the Day of the Dead ancestral devotion with seeing ghosts, “Then the name … The neighbors are the Calaverases. They are Mexican, and their name is Calavera (skull) and they live in a town full of ghosts. That is the equivalent of a family named Advent Calendar living in town with a reputation for elves.”

For our Lit circle, we will explore this controversy as well as the other elements of its plot and setting.

Everyone has an assigned role.


Investigator roles. Analyze and cite 2-3  sources.  Please cite your sources properly.

Participants, please comment in a maximum of four paragraphs, state your role as a header, and use your first name only. Please reply to at least 3 other participants.

  1. What is the controversy?  Take side of the critics like Debbie Reese. Why is it important to be culturally accurate? What liberties can a storyteller of a different culture take without harm?
  2. What is the controversy? Take side of defenders of RT and the research she did.
  3. What is the controversy? Explore the idea that RT could have written this as a ghost story without bringing in the Day of the Dead and its ceremonies and traditions.
  4. American beliefs about ghosts – How are they reflected in the book?
  5. Culturally accurate Day of the Dead books for middle grade students – Create an annotated list, with pictures, please!
  6. Cystic Fibrosis and Children – What is it? How does it affect Maya? What are her prospects for living a “normal” life?
  7. Day of the Dead celebrations: What is the contact between the living and ancestors during the El Dia de Los Muertos?
  8. Ancestor devotion in other cultures – How do other compare with Mexican Day of the Dead?
  9. Northern California coastal weather, esp. the fog – How does it help the pacing, the plot?
  10. California Missions: Why were they created? What was their role? What is their role in the book?

Literary Critic roles. Use specific pages to back up for analysis, and give readers the exact page numbers, please. Please cite your source(s) properly.

  1. Visual literacy skills needed to read this book
  2. How does RT tell her tale? How do specific panels relate the story in interesting ways?
  3. How does it work structurally? How does the author make visual transitions? What other structural elements are important?
  4. How does the relationship of the sisters change?
  5. What are the subplots and how do they create an overall arc to the story?

Participants, please comment in a maximum of four paragraphs, state your role as a header, and use your first name only. Please reply to at least 3 other participants.

Deadline: 11/28 at midnight.

Read and reply deadline: 11/30 midnight.