After their school becomes overcrowded, the entire third grade of Elwood Elementary is moved to an old mansion in their town that has been empty for years. However, the mansion has been rumored to be haunted, and soon after the third graders move in, strange things start happening. A particular group of third graders ends up solving the mystery of their mansion as a group project for their class, and that begins a series where the students investigate mysterious phenomena.
Most of the group members are misfits in one way or another. When their class project requires them to work together to solve the mystery of the old house, they become friends with each other.
In each of the books, there are logical explanations for the hauntings that the kids investigate, and they approach their investigations methodically and scientifically.
Adam Johnson — The leader of the group. He loves ghost stories and thinks it would be cool to be a Ghostbuster, like in the movies. He is the one who urges the others on in solving mysteries, comes up with plans of action, and often arrives at the solution before the others do. In the first book, he also develops an interest in art.
Another interesting fact about Adam is that the pictures in the book clearly show that Adam is black, but it is never mentioned in the text of the story. His race is unimportant to the stories, but I found it interesting because it’s a softer message about diversity than in books that deliberately point out the races/ethnicities of their characters. Adam is a strong, interesting character simply because of who he is, not what he looks like, but his appearance is still there, in the pictures, so that others can notice it, if they pay attention.
Norma Hamburger — A shy girl, frequently teased about her last name. She often feels out of place and sometimes ignored by the two other girls she thinks of as her best friends because they like each other better. Through the ghosthunting group, she finds other friends who value her more highly.
Debbie Clark — A talkative girl who’s really into science. Because not many other girls share her interests, Debbie also doesn’t have many friends, but she becomes friends with the other members of the ghosthunting group, especially Norma. She also seems to have a slight crush on Adam.
Chuck Webber — Adam’s best friend. He is the class clown, always telling stupid jokes and one of the main people who teases Norma about her name. He later realizes how much that bothers Norma and promises to stop.
Danny Biddicker — He is strong and good at sports, but he worries that he’s not as smart as the others. He feels better when the other members of the group value his opinions and acknowledge when he comes to the right conclusions, helping him to realize that he’s smarter than he gives himself credit for being. Although he is much bigger and stronger than the other students in his grade, Danny is not a bully and helps the other kids when they get pushed around.
Joey Baker — He is part of a large family and often feels overshadowed by his siblings, some of whom are especially talented at things Joey isn’t, so he tells tall tales to get attention. The other kids don’t understand why he keeps making up wild stories about himself and get annoyed with his lies. Over the course of the series, Joey gets the chance to be a real hero by helping the others to solve mysteries, and eventually he develops more confidence in himself.
Books in the Series:
Elwood Elementary has become overcrowded, so the third-graders have been moved to an old mansion, Blackwell House, which has been empty for years. Many people think that Blackwell House is haunted, and soon, strange things start happening there after the third graders move in. Can Adam and his friends discover the true secret of Blackwell House?
The third-grade ghosthunters are back and investigating some strange phenomena on a class trip to a farm. Is the farm really haunted by a ghost wolf?
The third graders are taking another class trip to a state park, where they learn how Native Americans used to live there. However, an ancient legend seems to be coming back to life.