GhostsWhen Cat and her family move to a foggy, windy Northern Californian town, she worries that the town’s obsessions with ghosts portends something dangerous and harmful. Cat's little sister Maya has an incurable lung disease cystic fibrosis, she is insatiably curious about ghosts and loves the town's coming celebration of Day of the Dead.
by Raina Telgemeier
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Will Maya be soothed by the town's cool, misty weather or do the ghosts threaten to take her away from Cat? As the story develops, Cat discovers more about the town’s celebration of the Day of the Dead and her own Latino heritage. I especially love the way Raina layers poignant, important messages about family, courage and facing fears.
You create such a relatable character in Cat. I'm curious what part of “Ghosts” draws on your own experiences, and what is creating a new character and story?
Raina: Cat shares my anxiety. I have a lot of fears and phobias, from things that go bump in the night to much deeper issues within myself. Some of these, I worked through on the page, but otherwise Cat and her surroundings are fictional. Her little sister, Maya, who has cystic fibrosis, is in part inspired by my young cousin who became terminally ill when she was 12. Sabina was an incredible, spirited, unstoppable kid, and Maya definitely shares some of her light.
I love how you capture the Northern California coastal setting. What town and experiences influenced this?
Raina: Bahía de la Luna isn’t a real place, but it was inspired by a mash-up of Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Moss Beach, Monterey, and Morro Bay. And a little Santa Ana for good measure, even though that’s in Orange County. I grew up in San Francisco, but my family loved exploring the oceanside towns all over the Bay Area.
My students are particularly interested in the way Maya copes with cystic fibrosis. What inspired you to make this part of the story?
Raina: Cystic fibrosis is a disease that directly affects a person’s ability to breathe, and breathing is a huge theme in the story: ghosts don’t breathe, so Maya feels like she can relate to them. And Cat’s anxiety means that she sometimes forgets to stop and breathe deeply, herself.
Thank you so much, Raina, for taking the time to share with us about Northern California and your wonderful story. I love this video where Raina shares both the Northern California settings of Ghosts and a little bit about the story.
If you want to read more about Raina Telgemeier and Ghosts, check out these links:
- NPR interview: "Ghosts" takes on tough issues for children
- New York Times podcast interview
- Washington Post interview
- SLJ interview
©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books