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The Polter-Ghost Problem



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About The Book

Three best friends discover a haunted orphanage and get swept up in ghoulish shenanigans in this “laugh-out-loud, high-action read” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) for fans of Best Nerds Forever and the Fear Street series.

One haunted orphanage + two types of ghosts + three freaked-out friends = plenty of trouble.

Best friends Aldo, Pen, and Jasper are braced for a boring summer. And equally dull summer journal writing assignments. That is, until they see a slightly transparent boy with a bad haircut appear by the soccer field and then disappear into the woods beyond. The boys follow him and discover the long-abandoned Grauche Orphanage for Orphans, a house in the woods that is most definitely haunted.

But the ghosts are not the problem. They have been trapped at the orphanage by a cranky poltergeist who erupts into violent tantrums if they put even a spectral toe across the property line. The ghosts ask the boys to help free them—but who is the angry poltergeist and what does it want? To solve the mystery, the trio must investigate the orphanage’s dark past, evade Aldo’s ghastly older brother, borrow a skeptical librarian, and duck lots of flying furniture, all while failing to agree on almost anything. Can they defeat the evil entity and rescue the ghosts before their parents catch on and ground them for eternity?


Chapter 1 1
THE HEDGE WAS AS TALL as the three of us standing on each other’s heads. It was also thick and prickly, with the kind of needles that would definitely poke at least one eye if we tried to push our way through the branches. The hedge was growing around a rusty iron fence topped with the kind of spikes that would definitely rip our pants and our underpants if we tried to climb over it. And that was if we were lucky.

We didn’t want to picture what would happen if we weren’t lucky trying to climb over those spikes.

There didn’t seem to be any way past the hedge. Which was frustrating and also confusing. Because all three of us had just seen the strange kid we’d been following pass straight through it, backward, with no trouble. This made the strange kid seem even stranger. And it made us even more curious about what was behind that hedge.

Pen and Jasper, who don’t agree on much, both think we should keep moving ahead with the action now so the story will be exciting. But I feel like we need some background about ourselves first so the story will make better sense. And since I’m the one typing, even though all three of us are narrating, I get to decide.

Pen and Jasper read this and told me I don’t get to decide and to take the background part out. I said I would, but I didn’t. I’m counting on them not rereading and noticing I left it in.

So here’s a minimal amount of information about us, some of which probably won’t come as a surprise.

There were—and are—three of us: Pen, whose full name is Pen Q. (he swears we’ll never know what it stands for) Blaisewell; Jasper, whose full name is Jasper Yi; and me, Aldo Pfefferkuchen (the P is silent). We’ve lived in the town of Frog Lake all our lives, and we (obviously) go to Frog Lake Middle School.

Pen and Jasper have known each other since they were in pre-K together. Pen says Jasper attacked him with a plastic shovel on the first day. Jasper says Pen is mistaken. But Jasper says that a lot. My guess is that Jasper was provoked, which is actually pretty easy to do, so I can see both sides of that argument.

Pen and I met at the Frog Lake Kids’ Drama Fest the summer after second grade. My parents were hoping it would make me more outgoing, and Pen’s were probably hoping it would make him less outgoing. Pen was a huge hit as the talking candelabra in our musical. I was fourth fork from the left.

When Pen introduced me to Jasper, Jasper thought I was annoying at first. And then for a while after that. But I wore him down eventually.

At this point, Pen, Jasper, and I have been friends long enough to know exactly how to get on each other’s nerves—and also exactly when to get quickly back off them. This is the basis of our lasting friendship.

And that’s all you need to know about us for now.

About The Author

Photograph courtesy of the author

Betsy Uhrig is the author of The Polter-Ghost ProblemDouble the Danger and Zero ZucchiniWelcome to Dweeb Club, and Mind Over Monsters. She was born and raised in Greater Boston, where she lives with her family and way more books than you are picturing. She graduated from Smith College with a degree in English and has worked in publishing ever since. She writes books for children instead of doing things that aren’t as fun. Visit her at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (August 29, 2023)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781665916110
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12
  • Lexile ® 740L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®
  • Fountas & Pinnell™ U These books have been officially leveled by using the F&P Text Level Gradient™ Leveling System

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Awards and Honors

  • Texas Bluebonnet Master List
  • Massachusetts Book Award "Must Read" List

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More books from this author: Betsy Uhrig