How I Became a Ghost
A Choctaw Trail of tears story
The How I became a ghost series: book 1
Written by: Tim Tingle
The Roadrunner Press
Inside map illustration by Steven Walker
Showing the path of the trail of tears
A set of 14 discussion questions
Age range: Middle Grades (8-13 years old)
By Elizabeth S. Tyree
In Tim Tingle’s How I Became a Ghost we are introduced to Isaac, a ten year old Choctaw boy living in the Nation of Mississippi in the year 1830. Isaac lives in a village with his parents, one older brother (Luke), and a talking dog named Jumper. Though the narrator is ‘only’ ten, the reader understands from the opening line that something big is going on and that things just aren’t quite right.
“Maybe you have never read a book written by a ghost before.” Isaac says, and so it begins. He tells us of his tribes removal from their village, his dawning knowledge that the beliefs are true…the departed tribesman stay with their people as ghosts, and life as a tribe on the move, first in a swamp and then on the Trail of Tears.
Isaac also shares with us the belief that, “When you will soon be a ghost, sometimes you see people before they are ghosts. You see how they will die.” (pg 7)
Armed with this ‘gift’ and resilient spirits, Isaac and his companions, both living and ghostly, begin their long journey down the Trail of Tears. Some, including our young narrator, do not finish the journey as living beings, but becoming ghosts doesn’t seem to stop anybody. They continue on their journey, bound as a family of both blood and choice as the Choctaw are herded by hard soldiers along the path to their future.
Showing the spirit, strength of character, cunning, and community that the Choctaw pride themselves in, Tingle’s characters pull the reader along for the walk. By weaving facts into the storyline to show truths of the Trail inside the tale, Nahullos (non-Choctaw) can achieve a glimpse of what it might have been like to be forced into the walk. Though it includes several death scenes, Tingle has walked the tightrope between causing goose bumps and creating nightmares…and I believe that he did it well.
I give this book 4.5 out of 5 Dragons. As usual, I look forward to reading more of Mr. Tingle’s work in the future.
To discover more about Tim Tingle, go to: www.timtingle.com