The Ghost of Graylock, by Dan Poblocki (Scholastic, August 1, 2012, ages 10 and up) is a top notch ghost/mystery story for kids.
Twelve year old Neil and his sixteen year old sister Bree have been sent, all unwilling, to stay with their aunts for the summer in upstate New York. Their father has taken off to pursue a dream of acting, and their mother has fallen into deep depression. And so Neil finds himself at loose ends, with nothing to do but worry at his mother's retreat into dark absence.
But this small town of Hedston has a dark secret. Off in the woods lurks Graylock Hall, an old, abandoned insane asylum for children...and there, the stories go, Nurse Janet murdered three of her charges, drowning them in the weed-filled lake. With two local boys, Neil and Bree set off the explore the asylum...where Nurse Janet's ghost supposedly still walks.
And indeed, there is a ghost. One who torments Neil and Bree with nightmares and horrible visitations, one who won't rest until they can figure out just what she wants. And as the haunting grows in intensity, so does the danger Neil and Bree are in...
Graylock is as a creepy an asylum as I've ever encountered in a children's book--not because there are grotesque manifestations of a blatant and yucky kind, but because of the disturbing descriptions of the place itself, with many moments of jump-inducing suspense that fill Poblocki's account of the kids' exploration. It's not subtle, perhaps (fallen dolls, for instance, are described as "lying like corpses at a murder scene" on page 28), but it's vivid as all get out! And when the ghostly haunting really gets going, it becomes a truly edge-of-the-seat read.
It's not just a ghost story, but a family one as well. The supernatural terror is heightened emotionally by Neil's fears for his own mother's sanity, and what the future might hold for his family. And the sibling relationship between Bree and Neil is a solid and mutually supportive one, without which neither of them would have been able to see their ghostly experience through to its shocking end.
For those looking for a solidly middle grade ghost story, this is an excellent bet, For those, like me, who don't go out of their way to seek out spooky stories just for their spookiness, there are characters to care about, complementing the suspense and making a satisfying whole.
(I've also read Dan Poblocki's earlier horror/ghost story for kids, The Nightmarys. That was too much for me, on the horror side of things; this one was just right).
Here's another review at Jen Robinson's Book Page.
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher.