Ghosts: A Not-So-Scary Roundup
It’s that time of year, when we start thinking about ghosts and goblins and jack-o-lanterns and things that go bump in the night. There are plenty of comics and graphic novels with ghosts in them, but not all are scary. Here are some great reads that happen to have spirits in them.
by Raina Telgemeier
Graphix / Scholastic
Well, obviously we had to include this one. The Day of the Dead allows celebratory spirits to meet a sick young girl and help her older sister understand how the possibility of death is part of life. Several lessons in this one — family is important, and so is making new friends and exploring other cultures — told with welcoming art and a strong sense of place. A happier ghost story than the usual.
by Ivy Noelle Weir and Steenz
Grades 9 and up
After struggling with mental health issues, Celeste takes an archivist job at a creepy local museum. A ghost gives her purpose, to find out what happened to a previous patient, from when the building was a sanatorium. This one’s more traditional, with mysterious noises and a slow-building moody atmosphere, but the overall purpose is positive and encouraging.
Friends With Boys
by Faith Erin Hicks
Maggie, previously home-schooled, enters public high school and has a hard time coping. She starts making new friends and learns to have faith in her own opinions, different from her close-knit older brothers. And she sees a ghost. This is more of a coming-of-age story, with amazing, emotional art, than any kind of spook tale, but it’s well worth reading no matter your reason.
GFFs: Ghost Friends Forever
by Monica Gallagher and Kata Kane
Ages 10-14 years
In contrast, here the ghost is central to the plot, which features teen romance and mystery-solving! While coping with her parents’ divorce, Sophia sees a ghost her age. Since her family business is ghost-hunting, instead of being surprised or scared, Sophia sets out to help the ghost girl remember what happened and bring her justice. Plus, they crush on each other, which is adorable.
by Megan Rose Gedris
Ages 12 and up
If you think clowns are creepy, this one’s for you. A science-loving carnival worker is haunted by her dead twin while trying to solve the mystery of who killed her. Distinctive characters — ringmaster, roustabouts, freaks, and other circus folk — make for new revelations and odd happenings throughout; the book is a valentine to odd people and their makeshift community.
by Kim Dwinell
Top Shelf Productions
Who would have thought that you could do an effective ghost story in such a sun-splashed, beachside environment? Sam and her newly-interested-in-boys best friend solve a town mystery with the aid of a pirate ghost. There’s plenty of adventure and odd happenings in this lovely beach-based read, with an atypical girl hero.
by Brenna Thummler
A laundromat is the perfect setting for the traditional cone-shaped “sheet with eyeholes” ghost, as Marjorie, trying to keep the family business going, finally comes to appreciate. The villain here is very human, a smarmy wannabe business owner, while the ghosts are sympathetic and a little melancholy. The problem-solving of characters in different phases of life and death helping each other out is clever.
For more creepy comics, check out Esther’s scary story rundown.
Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages ComicsWorthReading.com, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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