In honor of all our students headed back to school tomorrow…an old favorite about an unusual student and an understanding class. Ghosts Who Went to School, by Judith Spearing was a particular favorite of mine. Who wouldn’t like a kid who decides, after a hundred years, that he wants another chance at third grade?
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Mortimer and Wilbur Temple are regular boys; they like making snowmen, playing baseball, and watching people come and go in their neighborhood. They like having fun and playing practical jokes. Although they know most of the kids in town, no one knows them. Why is that?
Wilbur and Mortimer are ghosts.
After spending some time in town, capturing bank robbers at Halloween and helping out the fire department stringing lights at Christmas, the boys are ready for something different. Something besides hanging out at home, haunting the neighbors. They finally convince their parents that it’s time for them to go back to school. So, after a hundred-odd years of no school, Wilbur is back in third grade, while Mortimer is off to junior high.
Wilbur enjoys his first day of school, but an invisible kid in the classroom is a little disturbing for the teacher and most of the other kids. After hearing the adventure-filled retelling of the boys’ first day, Mrs. Temple decides that Wilbur (and Mortimer, who caused an even bigger splash over at his school) can only go back to school if they look like regular kids.
With some concentrating, Wilbur can appear solid. It doesn’t always work; if he gets nervous or is having problems with arithmetic or spelling, he tends to vanish. But he goes back every day, making new friends and convincing his teacher, Miss Hartley, that even ghosts deserve a chance. For Wilbur, third grade, new friends and learning are a lot more fun than scaring real estate agents and haunting the Temple house!
When a new student teacher comes in, Wilbur’s chance to finish third grade may be in danger. Can a class of third graders (and a few older siblings) work together and come up with a solution? Can Wilbur ever become a normal student to the other kids in his class? Does he really want to?
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Ghosts Who Went to School, by Judith Spearing, was originally published in 1966. The classrooms don’t have computers, but they do have kids. Kids who love animals, kids who are afraid of ghosts, kids who want to impress their older brothers and sisters. Kids who can’t spell, and kids who can.
This book was very popular when I was in fourth grade…I think every kid in my class read it. It’s harder to find now (only a handful of Minuteman libraries still own it) but it’s well worth reading. It’s a wonderful book about liking school, and about learning to accept people who are a little different.
The book is written on a fourth grade reading level, but kids a little younger or a little older would probably enjoy it too. The sequel, The Museum House Ghosts, is about Wilbur and Mortimer’s efforts to save their home from bulldozers and a determined developer. The sequel focuses more on Mortimer and his friends, so it’s for kids that are a little older. No Minuteman libraries own the book, but if you can find it, it’s a fun read to check out!