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“You don’t have to repeat our mistakes. Being an idiot isn’t cast in stone,” Grandpa. –Ghostopolis
by Doug TenNapel
AR Test, Graphic Novel
Garth Hale is going to die, but he is still surprised when he is accidentally zapped into the ghost world by Frank Gallows, a washed-up Ghost wrangler. Frank doesn’t believe in himself, but he’s determined to fix his mistake and bring Garth home. But getting Garth home isn’t going to be easy. The power-hungry, evil ruler of Ghostopolis wants to trap Garth. With Garth under his control, the evil ruler can tighten his grip on the spirit world. While in the ghost world, Garth meets his grandfather, who promises to help Garth return home. With the help of a bone horse, his grandfather, Frank Gallows and others, Garth may just find a way out of the ghost world.
TenNapel creates a complex, interesting ghost world using comic-style illustrations that do an exceptional job showing the character’s emotions. Younger readers will enjoy the many multi-paged, action-packed panels that contain onomatopoeias like “shink, hack, putt, snuff.” The story contains surprising pockets of humor that will make the reader laugh out loud. However, many younger readers may not understand the historical reference to Benedict Arnold, which adds to the story’s humor.
The plot is not necessarily original, but the ghost world does have frightening, fantastic creatures. Integrated into the plot are lessons about not giving up, using your imagination, as well as the fact that children do not need to make the same mistakes as their parents. Garth meets his grandfather, who illustrates the idea that it’s never too late for second chances, even if you’re a ghost.
A man named Joe created Ghostopolis. Joe is similar to Christ, and although he is portrayed in a positive manner, his appearance in the story is random and does nothing to advance the plot. The story does contain a love triangle, and although the relationship happened before the story began, one of the characters comes to realize that, “Love is in the acts, not in the feels.”
Ghostopolis uses a creative story about the afterlife to focus on relationships. Younger readers will enjoy the spooky adventure that allows a boy to be friends with a bone horse. Older readers will appreciate the story as it explores family relationships. Ghostopolis will engage readers because of the easy-to-read text, spooky spirit world, and protagonist that they can root for.
- Claire, who broke up with her boyfriend, tells him, “If I had known what a slime you were, I’d have left you even sooner!”
- A dog bites Frank on the nose.
- When Garth gets to the afterlife, dinosaur skeletons chase him. The scene is illustrated over nine pages.
- Bugs on four-wheelers chase Garth and his grandfather, but they are able to hide.
- Bugs try to capture Garth, who uses his power to get away. During the fight, Frank tries to help Garth, but an old woman hits him. Then Frank’s friend hits the old woman, and a brawl begins in the street. The fight is illustrated over eight pages.
- In order to save the boy from the bugs, Frank grabs him out of a flying vehicle. Grandpa hits the bug in the face. Garth eventually uses his power to whap the bug. The scene is illustrated over four pages.
- A skeleton holds a sword against a woman’s throat and leads her away. Garth and Frank follow. The woman is not injured.
- The story ends with an epic battle over 54 pages. The bugs attack and kill the bone king. The villain pulls a gun on Garth’s friends. In the end, Garth uses his power to defeat the evil villain, who flees and then comes back. The villain grows large and throws a man. He is defeated in the end.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Garth’s mother tells him, “Grandpa was a drunk.”
- Heck and crud are used once.
- Frank calls Benedict Arnold a jerk.
- Garth is accidentally zapped into the afterlife.
- When people die and go to the afterlife, they go to a city called Ghostopolis, which was created by “A mysterious Tuskegee airman named Joe. He made every mountain you see, laying one chunk of sand at a time. He stacked every brick in Ghostopolis so that ghosts would have a place to live. . . Joe is a mysterious guy. Most of us have never even seen him. We only know him by the work he’s done.”
- Garth meets Joe, who is helping people leave Ghostopolis through a crack in the wall. He helps the children, the widows, and the infirm go first. Joe will not take Garth through the crack, because “it’s not for you. . . yet.” Joe tells Garth, “I know a lot of things about you, Garth. And I’m rooting for you anyway.”
- The afterlife has seven kingdoms—the bone kingdom, the mummies, the specters, the wisps, the zombies, and the boogeymen.
- In the afterlife, people “get put back to our internal age. It gives us a chance to take care of unfinished business.”
- After the villain throws a man, and when someone saves him, the man says, “Thank God!”