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Book #1 of Track

About The Book

A National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature
Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read

Ghost wants to be the fastest sprinter on his elite middle school track team, but his past is slowing him down in this first electrifying novel of the acclaimed Track series from Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe Award–winning author Jason Reynolds.

Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. They all have a lot to lose, but they also have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves.

Running. That’s all Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons—it all started with running away from his father, who, when Ghost was a very little boy, chased him and his mother through their apartment, then down the street, with a loaded gun, aiming to kill. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems—and running away from them—until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who sees something in Ghost: crazy natural talent. If Ghost can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed, or will his past finally catch up to him?

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

Track, Book One: Ghost

By Jason Reynolds

About the Book

Castle Cranshaw (nicknamed Ghost) learned how fast he could run the night his father was arrested. Running is never something he plans to do, just like he never plans to get into altercations at school. Running just happens. Then, one day, Ghost comes across a practice in the park and decides to race one of the sprinters, a decision that leads him to join Coach Brody’s elite track team: the Defenders. Coach Brody takes a chance on Ghost and gives him a future to run toward, but only if Ghost can learn to let go of the things he’s been running from.

Discussion Questions

1. The cover of Ghost includes this question: Running for his life, or from it? Explain the role that running plays in Ghost’s life. Why does he start running? How does his reason for running change?

2. What memory is triggered about Ghost’s dad from the sunflower seeds? How does this flashback help develop Ghost’s character? What other things bring back memories of his father? Are any of his memories positive?

3. Initially, what sport is Ghost interested in playing? Why isn’t he interested in track? What do you think makes him decide to race Lu?

4. Consider the connotations of the word defender. What does it mean to be a defender? Many of the characters in the novel play the role of defenders. Choose a character and explore the ways that they embody the idea of being a defender. Why is this an appropriate name for Coach Brody’s track team?

5. How did Castle get his nickname? Why do you think he likes the name Ghost better than his given name? Which name do you think suits him best: Ghost or Castle? If you gave yourself a nickname, what would it be? Have others given you a nickname? If so, does it properly reflect who you are?

6. How does Coach Brody convince Ghost to join the Defenders? How does he convince Ghost’s mom? How hard is it to balance athletics and academics?

7. Ghost has to deal with bullying at school. Why do you think Brad Simmons picks on Ghost? How does Ghost respond? Instead of fighting, how could Ghost have retaliated?

8. What do you think Ghost means when he says, “I got a lot of scream inside”?

9. What do you think Ghost means when he tells Coach, “I guess the only other person I’m really scared of, maybe . . . is me”? How does Coach respond? Do you think Ghost is hard on himself?

10. Closely read the last few pages of Chapter 5 and the beginning of Chapter 6, making sure to pay attention to the author’s use of figurative language. How does Ghost’s flashback help develop his character and internal conflict?

11. Think about the consequences Ghost faces as a result of his decision to steal a pair of running shoes. Do you think that the way that Coach punishes him is fair? What would the consequences have been if Ghost had been stopped by the police instead? What would the consequences have been if his mother had discovered the theft? What would have happened if Ghost had never been caught? Why might it have been better for him to get caught?

12. In addition to training the Defenders to be competitive runners, Coach also teaches them to work together as a team, helping them learn to be responsible and empathetic. What tactics does he use to teach these life lessons?

13. Consider the way that the author contrasts Glass Manor with Sunny’s neighborhood in Chapter 7. How does this contrast help you understand Ghost?

14. Chapter 8 ends with Ghost saying, “And it felt good to feel like one of the teammates. Like I was there—really, really there—as me, but without as much scream inside.” Why are teams important? Have you ever been a part of a team? If so, how did your experience compare to Ghost’s experience?

15. What leads to Ghost’s decision to steal a pair of running shoes? Why does he feel like stealing is his only option? What are the short- and long-term consequences of his decision? What would you have done if you were in his position? What could Ghost have done instead? What lesson does he learn as a result?

16. At the newbie dinner, what secrets do Patty, Lu, Sunny, and Ghost reveal about themselves? How does this dinner impact their relationships with one another? Why is trust so important in relationships? How can you build trust with others?

17. Gradually, Coach reveals things about his own past to Ghost. What does Ghost find out about Coach’s childhood and relationship with his father? How do these revelations develop Ghost and Coach’s bond?

18. Ghost ends with a cliffhanger. What do you think the outcome of the race will be? This is the first book in the Track series: What conflicts do you think Ghost is going to face in the next book?

Extension Activities

1. Throughout the novel, Ghost has a number of adults who act as advocates for him: Mr. Charles, Coach, his mom, and even Principal Marshall. Consider the importance of each of these figures in Ghost’s life. Then write an essay or prepare a speech about a trusted adult in your own life. Why do you trust this person?

2. Jason Reynolds uses world records as a framing motif in the novel. Research world records and create a poster about some of the most interesting world records that you find. If you were going to try to break a world record, which one would you attempt?

3. One of Ghost’s heroes is Jamaican runner and Olympic gold medalist, Usain Bolt. Research Bolt’s biography or the biography of another great runner and present your findings to the class either with a traditional report or a multimedia presentation. A list of famous runners in history can be found here: And a contemporary list of runners can be found here:

4. When Coach asks Ghost’s mother to let him join the team, Ghost reflects, “I felt like I had seen this in every single sports movie I had ever watched. All of them. Ma’am, your son has potential. If this went like the movies, I was either going to score the game-winning touchdown (which is impossible in track) or . . . die.” As a class, compare Ghost to a classic sports movie (ex. Rudy, Bend It Like Beckham, Miracle, Hoop Dreams, 42, The Bad News Bears, Jim Thorpe—All American). Are there any similarities between the film you watch and Ghost?

5. Work with your physical education department to organize a Ghost-inspired class, trying out some of the training exercises and races. How did this experience enrich your understanding of Reynolds’s novel?

6. One of the central conflicts in the novel involves Ghost’s desire to acquire an expensive pair of running shoes. Research the development of running shoe technology. What types of shoes are on the market? What features are important in a running shoe? Which brands have the highest ratings? If you had to choose one pair of running shoes, which one would you choose? Write a persuasive essay that uses rhetorical appeals to justify your choice.

7. Look back at Chapter Five, paying specific attention to the scene in Everything Sports. Re-write this scene from Tia’s point of view. What do you think happened when she realized that Ghost stole the shoes? How would she have felt when Ghost returned with Coach and apologized?

8. Coach tells Ghost that he wants to show him, “You can’t run away from who you are, but what you can do is run toward who you want to be.” How does Castle try to run from who he is? What kind of person does he want to be? How has finding his team helped him start to become that person? Try applying Coach’s advice to your own life: What kind of person do you want to be? What could help you become that person?

9. Working with a group, try to translate Ghost into film. Which aspects of the book would translate especially well to film (ex. dialogue, setting, character, conflict)? You may choose to create a book trailer for the novel or adapt a scene in the book into a screenplay and film it.

Guide prepared by Amy Jurskis, English Department Chair at Oxbridge Academy.

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

About The Author

Photograph (c) Adedayo "Dayo" Kosoko

Jason Reynolds is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, a Newbery Award Honoree, a Printz Award Honoree, a two-time National Book Award finalist, a Kirkus Award winner, a UK Carnegie Medal winner, a two-time Walter Dean Myers Award winner, an NAACP Image Award Winner, an Odyssey Award Winner and two-time honoree, and the recipient of multiple Coretta Scott King honors and the Margaret A. Edwards Award. He was also the 2020–2022 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. His many books include All American Boys (cowritten with Brendan Kiely); When I Was the GreatestThe Boy in the Black SuitStampedAs Brave as YouFor Every One; the Track series (Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and Lu); Look Both WaysStuntboy, in the MeantimeAin’t Burned All the Bright (recipient of the Caldecott Honor) and My Name Is Jason. Mine Too. (both cowritten with Jason Griffin); and Long Way Down, which received a Newbery Honor, a Printz Honor, and a Coretta Scott King Honor. His debut picture book, There Was a Party for Langston, won a Caldecott Honor and a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. He lives in Washington, DC. You can find his ramblings at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books (August 30, 2016)
  • Length: 192 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781481450171
  • Grades: 5 and up
  • Ages: 10 - 99
  • Lexile ® 730L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Awards and Honors

  • National Book Award Finalist
  • ALA Notable Children's Books
  • CCBC Choices (Cooperative Children's Book Council)
  • ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
  • William Allen White Children's Book Award (KS)
  • Bank Street Best Books of the Year
  • William Allen White Children's Book Award Reading List (KS)
  • Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee (IN)
  • Louisiana Young Readers' Choice Award Nominee
  • Grand Canyon Reader Award Nominee (AZ)
  • Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best
  • Maine Student Book Award Reading List
  • Nutmeg Book Award Nominee (CT)
  • Texas Lone Star Reading List
  • Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award Master List (IL)
  • Great Lakes Great Books Master List (MI)
  • Nene Award Nominee (HI)
  • Buckeye Children's Book Award Nominee (OH)
  • Kentucky Bluegrass Award
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award Master List (VT)
  • Massachusetts Children's Book Award Nominee
  • Black-Eyed Susan Book Award Nominee (MD)
  • Georgia Children's Book Award Finalist
  • Mark Twain Award Final Nominee (MO)
  • ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults
  • South Carolina Picture Book Award
  • Nutmeg Book Award (CT)
  • Sasquatch Book Award Nominee (WA)
  • Cybils Award
  • ALA Margaret A. Edwards Award
  • ALA Notable Children's Recording
  • Odyssey Honor for Audio
  • Pennsylvania Reader's Choice Award Nominee
  • Amazing Audiobooks for YA
  • Wisconsin State Reading Association's Reading List
  • Golden Sower Award Nominee (NE)
  • NCTE Charlotte Huck Outstanding Fiction Award
  • Center for the Study of Multicultural Children's Literature Best Multicultural Books List
  • New York Public Library Best Books for Kids
  • South Dakota Children's Book Award Nominee
  • Sunshine State Young Readers Award, Grades 6-8 List (FL)
  • Minnesota Youth Reading Awards, Maud Hart Lovelace Honor Title
  • Oregon Reader's Choice Award
  • Virginia Readers'' Choice Award
  • North Carolina Young Adult Book Award

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More books from this author: Jason Reynolds

More books in this series: Track