The Haunting of Grade Three by Grace Maccarone, 1984.
Elwood Elementary has become overcrowded, so the third-graders have been moved to an old mansion, Blackwell House, which has been empty for years. The house looks kind of spooky, and there are a lot of local ghost stories about it. Fortunately, Adam Johnson likes scary stories, so he thinks that it’s wonderful to go to school there.
Soon after the students move into the house, strange things begin happening. Objects fall off desks and shelves, and door slam for no reason. Some of the kids discover a grave marker on the property for a boy about their age who died during the Civil War. The kids start getting nervous, and so does their teacher, Mr. Jenkins. Then, Mr. Jenkins decides to give the kids group assignments. Each committee gets to go to a different place in town and learn about it. Adam’s committee is assigned to study Blackwell House and decide if it’s really haunted. The kids think their assignment is pretty strange, but Adam is excited. He wants to be a ghost hunter like on Ghostbusters!
Most of the group members are misfits in one way or another. Norma Hamburger is a shy girl, frequently teased about her last name. Debbie Clark is a talkative girl who’s really into science. Chuck Webber, Adam’s best friend, is the class clown, always telling stupid jokes (and one of the main people who teases Norma about her name). Danny Biddicker is strong and good at sports, but he worries that he’s not as smart as the others. Joey Baker feels overshadowed by his large family, so he tells tall tales to get attention. The other kids don’t understand and get annoyed with his lies. By working together, they not only learn the secret of Blackwell House, but they learn more about each other and become a real team and friends.
In the end, there is a reasonable explanation for the haunting of Blackwell House. The kids take a methodical approach to the mystery, gathering their facts and ruling out various possibilities along the way. Joey gets a chance to be a real hero, Danny proves to himself and everyone else that he’s smart and has good ideas, and Adam gets a new life ambition.
One other thing that I thought was interesting is that Adam, the main character in the story, is African American, but it’s never mentioned in the text of the story. You only know because it’s shown in the pictures. It’s just a little detail and not important to the story, but I thought it was interesting in a story that encourages kids to notice details. I also liked it that Adam isn’t defined by race or appearance as so many characters in kids’ books are. He stands by himself as an interesting character with his own ideas, courage, and leadership abilities.
This is the first book in the Third Grade Ghosthunters series.