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Pemba's Song: A Ghost Story

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  370 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
A Newbery Honor winner collaborates with a new writer in this hip-hop-inspired historical thriller.

Pemba knows she's not crazy. But who is that looking out at her through her mirror's eye? And why does the apparition call her "friend?" Her real friends are back home in Brooklyn, not in the old colonial house in Colchester, Connecticut, where none of this would have happene
Hardcover, 109 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Scholastic Press
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Day Sibley
Feb 25, 2012 rated it liked it
It was around my junior year of high school when I read M+O 4ever, by Tonya C. Hegamin; I thought it was gonna be my top favorites, but I felt the story line between Opal and Hannah didn't fit, so I ended up not liking the book. When I saw that Tonya co-authored with Marlyn I said to myself "maybe it'll be good this round".

Moving on...

Almost from the beginning to end there's a shift through the protagonist language. To put it simply, one minute Pembas' talking like she's from the hood, then the
Jan 24, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: young-adult
Pemba moves from NYC to Connecticut unwillingly. Torn from her best friend and boyfriend, the only world she has ever known, to live in small-town New England, populated primarily by white residents. Her house appears to be haunted, and this is somehow related to the local history that Abraham, an older black man who has befriended Pemba and her mother, has been researching.

I so wanted to love this book. And I did enjoy aspects of it. Pemba's narrative voice is strong and authentic, and her poem
Feb 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Pemba's Song was a breathtaking triumph of a novel. I really appreciated the simple plot-line and dual story that existed in this title, similar to the M+O 4evr by Tonya Hegamin, which has a dual narrative, also of a slave.

The life of this young girl felt very close to home with young people from Brooklyn, and could engage young readers on a journey of what life would be like if they had to move away, to the far off land of Connecticut.

Recommended for readers of urban fiction, who are capable
Debra Gastelum
Jun 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ssyra-titles
Pemba's Song is one of those mystery-type ghost stories. I enjoyed the story and I really liked the character, Abraham, who is based on a real person. It's a quick and easy read and would be a great book to use for the Summer Reading Project. This one would be great to use for the following topic because it includes the Colored School, which does exist.

"Do research on a topic brought up in your
book. Write a one page paper on your
topic. Explain why that topic is important."

In fact, I think I'm
Mary Ann
This is a modern ghost tale, showing the intersection between Pemba and Phyllis. I really liked the voice that the author created for Pemba - she was believable and I could relate to her struggle moving from the city to a small town in Connecticut. I don't think the authors got the right balance with the ghost story - there just wasn't enough there to flush it out. I was stuck more in the confused state than understanding what Phyllis went through.
Feb 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: yyay
Maybe I'm used to reading problem novels, but this seemed to be resolved in way too pat a manner. It was based on real history--I wish it hadn't felt rushed. But I can also see it giving a middle-school kid a thrill and maybe an interest in history.

I was also hoping it would be the ghost of Phyllis Wheatley, but it wasn't.
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
Read it in half a day; breath of fresh air compared to what I usually read.
Gotta say, though: didn't care much for the "rhyme" and "poetry" portion of the thing. Could've done without that format.
Bumped it down from a 4-star to a 3-star because of the weak ending -- explained in a poetry fashion and summarized, out of sync with the rest of the book's pace.
Ugh, ruined it.
Mar 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Teen ghost story (with hip-hop poems and journal entries) is a good way to learn about history. I like the character Abraham and the relationship between him and Pemba. I'd like to see this made into a movie.
Alexa Hamilton
Oct 05, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: teenbooks
Thankfully only 108 pages long or I would not have made it through the slang that was trying too hard and the Marilyn Nelson poems that I somehow thought would be more gripping. The book may actually have been too short to really tell a story, so resorted to stereotypes and bad slang.
Mar 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I read it in 2 days. I though it was amazing how Abraham was able to help her. I also think it was amazing how she was able to connect with Pllyll's and helped solve what was left behind. I loved how her boyfriend was so protective. I just though the whole book was amazing!
Jan 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Pemba is a young African-American girl whose father died in Iraq. She and her mother move to Colchester, Connecticut. There strange things begin to happen to her. The ghost of a young slave girl wants her to put things right. It is a good fast read.
Jun 25, 2018 rated it liked it
This started interesting, but the end was really confusing.
Yanely Martinez
Oct 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Do you like ghost stories to scare you so you can think about it a lot? Well if you do i recommend this book its a ghost story so much mystery. I thought this book was really cool because it has a lot of mystery to it and if you really need to think about it to know whats really going on.

The book takes place in NYC and then it took place in Connecticut because they moved. Pemba is a girl in the story shes a girl from the hood and her and her mom are the only people living in the house because h
Mar 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Pemba and her mother move from Brooklyn to a small town near Hartford, Connecticut when her mom gets an opportunity at a dream job. The two have been living alone since Pemba's father died in the Iraq War. They find themselves in a beautiful historic home that dates back to the colonial period.

It is in this home that Pemba starts to experience flashbacks from the perspective of a slave girl who used to live in the house with the original owner. Phyllys, the slave girl, was witness to a crime tha
Educating Drew
FIRST holla to POC on the cover. Especially because it's a MIDDLE GRADES book man. And I tell you what, teaching at a school where the minority are the white kids, it means a lot to my kids to see POC on the books that I bring in. AND it's especially thumbs up in my book because THIS ONE isn't about gangs.*

Pemba is in high school. She's groovin' in the city, learning her step moves and listening to hip-hop when her mom decides that they need to move to someplace a bit more wholesome. Like a sma
Dec 07, 2009 is currently reading it
Pemba knows she's not crazy. But who is that looking out at her through her mirror's eye? And why is the apparition calling her "friend"? Her real friends are back home in Brooklyn, not in the old colonial house in Colchester, Connecticut, where none of this would have happened if Daddy were still alive. But now all Pemba has is Mom and that strange old man, Abraham. Maybe he's the crazy one.

Thank goodness for Pemba's Playlist and the journal she keeps. There are so many answers deep inside tha
Wendy Guernsey
Sep 30, 2015 rated it liked it
When reading “Pemba’s song” I realized that the story was pretty obvious if you really paid attention. Although it was overall a good ghost story I feel as if it could have been longer and more detailed. Since the story didn’t give us much information about all the characters you kind of had to assume who they were and the kind of person they were with the little bit you did know. The information in the book was pretty much the same as the inside cover. The poems in the story were also a little ...more
Mar 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Pemba's Song is a story about a girl named Pemba who discovers a special gift: She sees ghosts.
In the begining of the book we are introduced to Pemba and her mother. Pemba is upset with her mom, because she is moving her away from Brooklyn and her friends to a small town in Connecticut where her mom was offered a great job and an opportunity for a fresh start.

Pemba and her mother meet a strange man named Abraham who lives at the local library. She soons befriends this man and helps him with some
Mar 08, 2009 rated it liked it
Pemba is a native of Brooklyn. She is proud of her city and loves being where all the action is. With the help of her best friends, she*s even started to get over the death of her father, who was killed in Iraq. But then, her mom moves them to middle-of-nowhere Connecticut. She*s convinced she*s the only African American to have ever lived in this little town, and doesn*t have the faintest idea of how she will fit in. During their first night in the new house, Pemba has trouble sleeping and deve ...more
This was a nice short book with a combined ghost story and history lesson. Sort of like Avi's Something Upstairs, with some added urban modernity to it. teenager from Brooklyn is uprooted to a small town in Connecticut after her father's death, moving into a centuries old home that turns out to have been the place of two murders. Pemba has visions of a slave girl from the late 1700s, and the more visions she gets the sicker she gets but the more details she receives about the events that occurre ...more
Natalie  Sapkarov Harvey
I debated about how many stars to give this book - three and a half would be ideal, but Goodreads has yet to embrace halves. I bumped it up to four because it was so nice to read a short book with depth. Not all YA lit has to be hundreds of pages long! This slim book weaves the tale of two girls, the present-day Pemba who has moved into a house in small-town Connecticut and the historical Phyllis, previous inhabitant of the house and slave who has an important secret to share. Pemba stumbles int ...more
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Shyanne for

Pemba is a young girl who only has her mother now. Her father passed away, and so they moved away from her friends in Brooklyn to an old colonial house in Colchester, Connecticut.

There is a very strange old man named Abraham here, and Pemba thinks he is the crazy one - but she isn't so sure about herself anymore.

Pemba and a slave girl from the 18th-century, Phyllis, become intertwined, and Phyllis visits Pemba in a supernatural way. These visits change b
Pemba has just moved from New York to Connecticut because of her mother's new job. Pemba isn't happy about this. She's left all her friends and boyfriend behind to come to some nowhere town in another state.

And if that wasn't bad enough, it seems that the house she and her mother are living in is haunted.

I was excited about reading this book. I read a lot of YA books because that is what I enjoy and I also love ghost/paranormal books. Plus the main character is African American. I think it is gr
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read the book “Pemba’s Song” and I thought it was interesting but it took awhile to get to the point of things. Although it took awhile to get to the point the author used very good details and also put a lot of interesting things in. I liked how the author made is so that their was many different characters and they were all clearly stated. Also I liked how the main character, Pemba, was the narrator a lot of the time.

I would have liked to be able to read this book much faster. But their was
Feb 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: reluctant readers
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hopefuls
I really liked this one. Pemba is a typical teenage girl who has been forced to move with her mother to a small town. She is not happy about the move, but discovers that the house she has moved into has a secret. She starts "seeing" the ghost of a young slave girl. To avoid being at home alone with the ghost during the day while her mother is at work, Pemba, begins working with a local black historian on research for the "colored school". The history of the story is a little disconnected with th ...more
Pemba's mom takes a job near Hartford CT. Leaving friends and the happy life she knew in Brooklyn isn't easy and the house her mom got is spooky in a way...Pemba sees someone who really isn't there. Not wanting to leave Pemba alone when she goes to work - Mom has Pemba help Abraham with research at the library about black history in the area. The research and Abraham's help might help solve the mystery at the house.

This story came from the meeting of history buff Abraham Hajj at the public libra
Nov 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: young teens
Recommended to Nmawjee by: teacher
the name of the book i just read is:Pemba's Song: A Ghost Story , by Marilyn Nelson and is a sort of thriller. as i began to read this novel i thought the plot was not very clear dur to this i was a little confused. then of coarse it continued and i came to realize that there was an evident idea thought to be behind i chose to continue; and i came to learn that this book has a lot of suspense, a little sad points along with a beautifully described main setting. this is of an extremely old ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 10, 2010 rated it liked it
I really liked this book, but it wasn't without flaws. While the characters felt realistic and interesting, they also felt like they could have been fleshed out more. Their issues were resolved too easily and too quickly.

This book was really short and could've benefitted from another 10-15 pages of material and more wrap-up at the ending, which was rather abrupt.

I love the cover and the overall design and plan to keep it in my collection because of that. :-)

Good for Black History Month because
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Marilyn Nelson is the author of many acclaimed books for young people and adults, including CARVER: A LIFE IN POEMS, a Newbery Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Honor Book, and A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL, a Printz Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Honor Book. She also translated THE LADDER, a picture book by Halfdan Rasmussen. She lives in East Haddam, Connecticut.

For more information, please see ht
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“I had a lot of hatred, but I realized that kind of hate didn't do much. I had to start fueling myself with pride. We owe the ancestors that. So many of the souls who died in bondage just want us to recognize their struggle.” 2 likes
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