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Ghost Book Summary & Lesson Plan | Jason Reynolds

Ghost by Jason Reynolds is a fictional novel set in a modern day city and follows the life of 7th grader, Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw as he struggles to overcome a difficult childhood and find a new direction in life with the help of his mentor, Coach Brody.

Student Activities for Ghost

Essential Questions for Ghost by Jason Reynolds

  1. Who are the main characters in Ghost and what challenges do they face?
  2. How does Coach’s background parallel Ghost’s experiences? How did Coach overcome his traumatic experiences? How does this influence Ghost?
  3. What were some allusions (references to real people, places, events, sports and art/literature) present in the novel?
  4. What are some of the literary themes present in the novel, Ghost?
  5. What are some examples of symbolism used by the author in the novel Ghost and how does the symbolism help you better understand the characters and their motivations?
  6. What is a bildungsroman novel, and how is this an example of one?

Ghost Summary

Ghost by Jason Reynolds was written in 2016. It is the first novel in the award-winning “Track” series. The story is told from the perspective of 7th grader Castle Cranshaw (Ghost), who is struggling to cope after a traumatic incident of domestic violence.

Castle lives with his mother in an impoverished neighborhood in a big city. His father is in jail after attempting to shoot Castle and his mother in a violent, drunken rage. Castle has trouble in school from bullies who tease him incessantly. One day, Castle discovers an elite track team and realizes that joining the team might keep him on track in more ways than one.

Coach Brody of the Defenders convinces Castle’s mother to let him join the team on the condition that he keep up with his schoolwork and stay out of trouble.The first day after this commitment, Castle is cruelly bullied during lunch and he retaliates by assaulting the bully, Brandon Simmons. Fearing his mother’s reaction, he convinces the principal to call his coach to pick him up. After finding out the reason for the fight, Coach Brody allows Castle to stay on the team and gives him support and advice as well as extra running drills as a consequence.

Castle realizes that it is harder to run in his high top sneakers compared to his teammates who all have expensive running shoes. That night, he cuts the tops of his shoes off so they will be lighter to run in. Unfortunately, this leads to further bullying at school. Embarrassed, Castle flees his school in the middle of the day and heads to a sporting goods store where he steals an expensive pair of silver shoes, he calls his silver bullets. The shoes do help Castle run easier and he begins to bond with his teammates and enjoy being on the track team.

Coach Brody takes the new team members out for a “newbie dinner” where they share personal stories and Castle finally feels “seen”. Things are going well until the team gets their new uniforms. Coach Brody sees a “wanted” poster of Castle up in the sporting goods store for shoplifting. He refuses to give Castle his uniform and threatens to kick him off the team. Castle explains that he didn’t want to burden his mother further by asking for the shoes. He knew she couldn’t afford them. He laments that Coach couldn’t possibly understand what he is going through. It is then that Coach Brody reveals that he, too, grew up in the same neighborhood and that his father was a drug addict. He explains that his dedication to running helped give him direction and purpose. He even won a gold medal in the Olympics. Sadly, Coach’s father sold his medal for drugs and later died of a drug overdose.

To make amends, Castle goes with Coach Brody to the sporting goods store. Castle sincerely apologizes and Coach pays for the shoes. With a renewed commitment to “stay on track”, Castle is allowed back on the team in time to compete in their first race. The story ends with Ghost preparing for the first race of his life and realizing that for once, he is not running from his past but towards his future.

Buy Ghost on Amazon

How To Use a Story To Teach Life Lessons


Follow Decisions the Character Makes

When students read a story, you can help them keep track of the decisions that the characters make, and the consequences that arise from those decisions. This will help students understand personal choice and decision-making in the real world.


Discuss Choices and Consequences of Actions

Students usually understand by now that their actions have consequences, but seeing these lessons play out in a novel is a very non-threatening way to engage students in further learning about how what they do matters.


Apply Lessons to Student's Own Life

Once students understand how actions have power in a novel, they can apply these lessons to their own life. In the case of Ghost, he realizes that he can make changes for the better. This will help students understand that they are responsible for their own actions.

Frequently Asked Questions about Ghost by Jason Reynolds

What is the basic premise of this story?

In the story Ghost, the main character Castle Cranshaw is running away from some bad experiences. He joins the track team at his school, but ends up making some poor decisions that get him into trouble. With the help of mentor Mr. Brody, Castle ends up correcting his mistakes and moving towards a more positive future.

What are the overarching themes?

This story teaches that everyone has difficulties they must deal with, and that there are no shortcuts to success. Through hard work and determination, Castle is able to get back on track, and students can learn that even if they make bad choices, they can always improve.

How does running relate to the story?

Running gives Castle something to focus on, and something to be proud of. He meets a great mentor and coach through running that helps him to make better choices and push himself farther than he thought possible.

Image Attributions
  • 2385477 • JD Danny • License Free To Use / No Attribution Required / See for what is not allowed
  • 3416304 • LawriePhipps • License Free for Most Commercial Use / No Attribution Required / See for what is not allowed
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