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If you are looking for a ghost story for children, get The Ghost Belonged To Me by Richard Peck. If you are still in the mood for ghost stories, Something Upstairs by Avi is a pretty good read. Something Upstairs has a faster pace to the story than The Ghost Belonged To Me, but the latter had a more immersive setting, richer characterization and subplots.

Something Upstairs features a 12-year-old boy named Kenneth that moves to a house in Rhode Island that is haunted by the ghost of a teenage slave. The slave asks for Kenneth to find his murderer, but by agreeing Kenneth finds himself transported back in time, and unable to return until he solves the mystery. The time travel provides an interesting set of rules to the universe, but is hardly an innovation to telling ghost stories, as Peck’s ghost story book series contained time travel as well. Still, Avi throws in some interesting twists and political intrigue into the story that make it a solid, streamlined story.

I’ve been told that kids these days have a short attention span, and that there needs to be action from the beginning, and action throughout to keep the reader hooked. It is possible that modern kid readers would prefer Something Upstairs over The Ghost Belonged To Me, but I missed the richness of having interesting characters including a male and female protagonist in the story. Something Upstairs is very male-centric. There are approximately two female characters in Something Upstairs, Kenneth’s mom and a librarian, and they have very little to do with the story. I may be more sensitive to this as a female reader, but I would rather my stories take place in a world rich with characters of both genders.

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