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Message from Agatha
My name is Buddy. I'm a therapy dog. That means I go to school and help kids. Sometimes I help them with reading. Sometimes I help them solve problems. Sometimes I just put my head in their laps and let them pet me. Petting a dog helps humans feel better when they are upset. I LOVE being a therapy dog. It's my favorite job!
I have another favorite job besides therapy dog. I'm also a detective. I've solved a bunch of cases already: the Case of the Lost Boy, the Case of the Mixed-up Mutts, the Case of the Missing Family, the Case of the Fire Alarm, and the Case of the Library Monster.
Here's a case I haven't solved yet: the Case of the School Ghost.
A lot of humans and animals think there's a ghost at Four Lakes Elementary School. I don't know if there's a ghost there or not. I don't even know if I believe in ghosts.
Here's one thing I DO know:
* Some strange things have happened at that school.
Here's a list of some of the strange things I've seen, heard, and felt there:
* Doors closing all by themselves.
* Lights flickering and going out all by themselves.
* Noises in the walls and the ceiling.
* Cold air rippling through my fur. Like a GHOST is trying to pet me!
Maybe tonight I will solve the Case of the School Ghost once and for all, because guess what? I GET TO GO TO A SLEEPOVER WITH CONNOR AT SCHOOL TONIGHT! We're going to stay all night and sleep in sleeping bags in the library. It's going to be so fun!
The sleepover is for fourth graders who have read five hundred pages so far this school year. I'm not a fourth grader. And I haven't read five hundred pages. But Mom is the alpha human at school. If she says I can go to the sleepover, then I can go to the sleepover.
Right now I am lying on the floor by Connor's bed, watching him pack.
"Shirt, pants, underwear, socks, pajamas," Connor says. "Is that everything, Buddy?"
"What about food?" I ask. "And your bowls? And some toys?" That's what we bring for me when I go someplace and stay overnight. Food, my bowls, and some toys. I don't need any of that other stuff that Connor is packing.
Connor slaps the side of his head. "I almost forgot my toothbrush." He dashes out of the room.
I wouldn't mind if Mom and Connor forgot my toothbrush. I HATE having my teeth brushed.
Hey, maybe I should see what Mom packed for me. If she packed my toothbrush, there's still time to hide it under the refrigerator. Or in the garbage can.
I trot down the hall and down the stairs. There's a paper bag on the floor in the kitchen. Sniff ... sniff ... I smell my FOOD! I stick my nose inside the bag. The bag topples over and everything inside spills out. A bag of food, a bag of liver treats, my bowls, my leash, my ball, and my squeaky duck. I LOVE my squeaky duck. It's my favorite toy!
"Buddy!" Mom cries.
My heart jumps inside my chest. "Oh, hi, Mom," I say with my tail. "I didn't hear you come up behind me."
Mom stuffs everything, including the duck, back inside the bag. She makes mad eyes at me and blows a bunch of air out through her mouth.
"What?" I say. "What did I do?"
Mom doesn't tell me.
I think I'll go outside for a little bit. Maybe when I get back Mom will be in a better mood.
I charge through my doggy door, across the back porch, and down into the yard. Sniff ... sniff ... the air smells heavy and wet. The sky is growing dark. It feels like it might storm soon.
I circle the yard, searching for the perfect spot to do my business. Someplace where I haven't gone in a while, but not too far from where I normally go. Ah, here's a good spot. I lift my leg and ... all of a sudden I have the feeling I'm being watched.
I glance over my shoulder, but I don't see anyone. I finish my business, then turn all around. I see our big tree, some flowers, the tall fence. I don't see any intruders.
Then I look up. Above the fence. Cat with No Name has draped himself across a tree branch that's hanging partway into our yard.
"Why do you always have to sneak up on me?" I ask.
"I didn't sneak," Cat says. "I've been here all afternoon."
"Why?" I ask. Doesn't he have anything better to do than watch my backyard? It's my job to watch my backyard, not his.
Cat licks his front paw. "I was waiting for you to come outside," he says. "I have a message for you."
A message? For me?
"From who?" I ask, padding over to the fence.
"Agatha," Cat says.
Agatha is the name of the ghost at school. If there really is a ghost at school.
I swallow hard. "What's the message?"
"Stay out of the basement," Cat says. "Agatha doesn't like people or animals hanging around her school at night. She won't bother you if you keep everyone out of the basement. But if you, or anyone else, goes down there tonight, you'll be sorry."
I don't know if Cat is messing with me or not.
"What do you mean?" I ask. "What'll happen if I go down there? What'll happen if any of the kids go down there?"
"You don't want to know," Cat says. "But trust me. It'll be bad."
The sleepover is going to be in the library, so I don't think anyone will want to go to the basement.
But I could be wrong.CHAPTER 2
I follow Mom and Connor back and forth from the house to the garage. Back to the house. Back to the garage. House. Garage. They are loading suitcases and boxes and grocery bags into the car. I think this is all the stuff we are bringing to the sleepover.
"Don't forget the bag with my food in it," I tell Mom and Connor. I go over to show them which bag I'm talking about. But they each grab different bags.
"Um, guys? My food?" I say again.
Finally, Mom picks up the bag with my food. I wag my tail and start to follow her back out to the car.
"I'll get it," Connor says, racing for the front door. I think I can trust Mom to put my food in the car by herself, so I hurry after Connor. I can't wait to see who's here!
But when Connor opens the front door, nobody is here.
There's a box sitting on the front porch, though. Thunder rumbles in the distance as Conner and I step outside. We both gaze around the front yard, and up and down the block, but there is nobody around. I lunge for the box. Sniff ... sniff ... sniff. I can't tell what's inside. I can't tell who sent it, either. Somebody we don't know.
Connor opens the box. Inside is a flashlight and two pieces of paper. One. Two.
I smell chocolate and bubblegum on the box, the flashlight, and the papers.
"What do those papers say?" I ask as Connor reads one to himself.
"Hmm," he says. His eyebrows scrunch together and he flips to the other paper.
I peer over his arm. There are a lot of words on those papers. I know some of them: who, you, are, she, has, and a. Mrs. Warner says those are "sight words." Sight words are words you know when you see them. Most of the words on Connor's paper are not sight words.
"Let's go, Connor," Mom calls from the garage.
"Coming!" Connor calls back.
We go inside and Connor stuffs the flashlight and the papers into his suitcase. Then we go out to the car.
We pick up Connor's friend Michael on the way to school. Too bad my friend Mouse doesn't get to come, too. Mouse is a dog, not a mouse. He is the biggest, loudest dog on our street. He lives at Michael's house. But he lives outside the house and Michael lives inside the house.
I feel sad that Mouse doesn't get to come to the sleepover.
"IT'S OKAY, BUDDY," Mouse says. "KEEP AN EYE ON MY BOY WHILE HE'S GONE." Mouse is so big that he can't help yelling when he talks.
"I will," I promise Mouse.
Michael climbs into the backseat with me and Connor. And then we are off to school. I LOVE school. It's my favorite place!
Connor and Michael don't say much in the car. Usually Connor and Michael have a lot to say to each other. But today they are both very quiet.
Then I notice Michael's backpack. There's a flashlight sticking out of one of the pockets. Sniff ... sniff ... This flashlight has the same chocolate and bubblegum scent on it as the flashlight and papers that Connor found in the box outside our house!
Connor notices Michael's flashlight soon after I do. "Hey, I have a flashlight like that," he says.
"Yeah?" Michael says. "I, um, just got it. Today."
"Did you find it in a box on your front porch?" I ask Michael.
Michael doesn't answer me.
"I ... just got mine today, too," Connor says.
The boys look at each other. They both look like they want to say something more, but neither one does. Finally, they sit back and watch the rain fall outside their windows.
Why don't they say more about those flashlights? I wonder. I want to know where the flashlights came from.
Who would ring a doorbell, leave a flashlight and some papers in a box by the door, and then run away? Even more important, why would someone do that?
Hmm. I think I have a new case to solve.
* * *
When we get to school, Connor and Michael help Mom carry things into the school. They move fast because it's pouring outside.
They bring everything to the library and Mrs. Warner shows them where to put it. Mom may be the boss of the school, but Mrs. Warner is the boss of the library.
I greet all the kids as they arrive. Most of them give me a pat or a hug. They all come in soaking wet, but so, so, so excited. I'm excited, too!
The kids unroll their sleeping bags, talk, laugh, and run around. It's getting very, very loud in the library, but tonight Mrs. Warner doesn't seem to mind.
Then Mr. Poe comes. Mr. Poe always smells so interesting because he does a lot of different jobs at the school. Today he smells like PIZZA!
"Pizza's here!" Mr. Poe says. "It's in the cafeteria."
"Yay, pizza!" several kids cry as they charge for the door.
I know how they feel. I LOVE pizza. It's my favorite food!
I race down the hall with all the kids. When we get to the cafeteria, we crowd around a table that has about twelve or nine pizzas on it. Sniff ... sniff ... I smell tomatoes ... cheese ... crust ... pepperoni ... sausage ... more cheese ... onions ... mushrooms. I LOVE all that stuff!
"Not for you, Buddy," Connor shoves my nose away from the table.
Darn. The good stuff is never for me.
Oh well. There are pizza crumbs on the floor. I clean them up as I follow Connor and Michael over to one of the long tables.
Kids greet me along the way. "Hi, Buddy!" "Hey, Buddy!" "How are you doing, Buddy?" One even slips me his pizza crust.
"Thank you!" I say, licking my lips.
Rain pounds against the roof above the cafeteria. Lightning flashes. Thunder crashes. Several kids jump.
Sniff ... sniff ... I smell scared kids.
"It's okay," I say to all the kids. "It's just a little thunderstorm."
"Aw!" A girl who smells like sausage and flowers turns around and hugs me. "Buddy's scared of the storm."
What? No, I'm not. "You're the one who's scared. Not me," I say, licking her cheek. Maybe if she pets me she won't feel so scared.
All of a sudden there is a strange banging sound above us. Like someone is up there pounding on the ceiling with a hammer.
The cafeteria grows quiet and everyone looks up. But the noise stops almost as suddenly as it began. Everyone goes back to what they were doing. Eating ... talking ... or in my case, cleaning up pizza crumbs on the floor.
There are A LOT of crumbs under the table. I squeeze in between all the legs and feet. It's dark under here, but I don't need light to find crumbs. Hey, there's part of an actual piece of pizza. I pounce on it and gobble it up. YUM!!!!!
My nose twitches. I smell something in the bag under that chair. It's not pizza. In fact, it's not food at all. But there's something very interesting in that bag. Something I've smelled recently.
I bite at the string on the bag and the bag loosens enough for me to stick my nose inside. There's another flashlight in here. A flashlight that looks and smells like Connor's and Michael's flashlights.
"What are you doing under there, Buddy?" Jillian asks, grabbing the bag away from me.
Hey, I know Jillian! She was Kayla's friend. Kayla was my human before Connor.
"Is that your flashlight?" I ask Jillian, resting my head on her knee. "Where did you get it?"
She gives me a quick pat on the head, then tightens the string on her bag without answering me.
Thunder crashes again. This time the lights above us flicker. The banging in the ceiling starts again.
"What is that noise?" a boy who smells like three different dogs asks.
"I don't think Agatha likes the storm," Mr. Poe says as he sweeps the floor behind a boy who smells like pepperoni, fish, and frogs.
"Is Agatha making that noise? Is Agatha making the lights blink?" Jillian asks.
"I don't know who else could be doing it," Mr. Poe says.
"Do you think we'll see Agatha tonight?" Dog Boy asks. He sounds like he wants to see Agatha.
"Maybe," Mr. Poe says with a twinkle in his eye. "I've heard she likes to come out during the fourth grade sleepover."
"Ooooooooo!" a bunch of kids cry in delight.
"Tell us the story of Agatha, Mr. Poe," the girl near Dog Boy says.
"Yeah, tell us!" Pepperoni-Fish-Frog Boy says.
Mr. Poe grins. "I think you all know the story of Agatha," he says, swishing the broom left and right.
"Tell us anyway!" several kids say at once.
Mr. Poe checks his watch. "All right. I'll give you the short version."
Jillian grabs her bag and gets up to leave. I know I should follow her if I want to solve the Case of the Flashlights. But I also want to solve the Case of the School Ghost.
I crawl out from under the bench, lie down, and listen to Mr. Poe.
"Agatha was a girl who went to school here a long, long time ago," Mr. Poe says, leaning on his broom. "She'd been in a fire when she was a young girl, so her face was scarred. Some of the kids made fun of her. In fact, a lot of kids made fun of her."
I never heard that part of the story before.
"That made her sad when she was a little girl," Mr. Poe goes on.
It makes me sad, too.
"And it made her mad when she was an old woman," Mr. Poe says. "Agatha always remembered how badly kids treated her in school. So after she died, her ghost returned to her old school. This school. And she still haunts the school to this very day."
"Have you ever seen Agatha, Mr. Poe?" the girl next to Dog Boy asks.
"Mr. Poe!" Mom cuts him off. Her hands are on her hips. "Are you trying to scare these kids out of their wits? There are no such things as ghosts. You know that. This is an old building. Things moan and creak. Sometimes we have trouble with the electricity. That loud banging is the hot water pipes. There are no ghosts here."
is the hot water pipes. There are no ghosts here."
When Mom walks away, Mr. Poe leans over the table and whispers, "That's what Agatha wants us to think."CHAPTER 3
A Ghostly Warning!
I wish I knew whether there really were such things as ghosts. I wish I knew whether there was a ghost at this school.
Whenever I want to solve a mystery like this, I start by making lists inside my head. Lists help me keep track of what I know and what I don't know. They also help me make a plan.
Here is what I know about Agatha:
* She went to school here a long, long time ago.
* She isn't alive anymore.
Here is what I don't know about Agatha:
* Is she really a ghost?
* Did she make the lights flicker?
* Is she banging around in the ceiling?
I know a lot of humans and animals who say they've seen Agatha. But I don't know if any of them have really seen her. Sometimes humans think they've seen a ghost when they've really seen something else. Sometimes humans even lie about seeing ghosts. I don't know why they do that.
Cat with No Name says he sees and talks to Agatha all the time. But you can't believe everything a cat tells you.
You can believe dogs, though. Dogs never lie.
I know a dog who says she's seen Agatha. The dog's name is Jazzy and she lives right behind the school. I don't know if Jazzy really saw a ghost or if she just thinks she saw a ghost. She definitely saw something, though. And I'm going to find out what.
Here is my plan:
* Stay up all night and watch for ghosts!
I don't know what I'll do if I actually see one.
* * *
"Gather round, everyone." Mrs. Warner claps her hands together as the storm rages outside. We are in the library now. "It's time for the scavenger hunt!"
Excerpted from The Case of the School Ghost by Dori Hillestad Butler, Jeremy Tugeau. Copyright © 2012 Dori Hillestad Butler. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted May 30, 2012
A lot of fun. I will admit, though to feeling nervous for a bit because of a ouija-like scene but I felt that the end made up for that bit of uncomfortableness. I’d suggest this to a more mature reader, though.
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