I remember when the first book of the Buddy Files series came out. I loved it. This series is great for kids transitioning to chapter books without pictures. The language is easy to read and understand. There are a few pictures, but not very many. It's a great step to help build a child's reading comprehension. My daughter Autumn, who is now 8, has read the other books in this series and so we were excited when we found the newest one, The Case of the School Ghost at the library. My second daughter, who is 6, started reading it aloud to me and then I noticed something that I wasn't comfortable with. So, I went back and read through the whole book.
This morning Autumn and I discussed my concerns and and hers. She recognized and felt it wasn't good for the children to lie to Connor's mom about where they'd been. She also felt it was wrong for them to disobey the directions of the adults at the school when they were there for a sleepover. Her other question was why the children would do something that was wrong just because someone told them to. I know this happens all the time with kids, but in this book there weren't any consequences for what they did. Yes, their actions were innocent enough and didn't harm anyone, but it's the principle of it.
My concerns with this book hinge on two things. 1) the idea of a Ouija board are introduced as part of the story. It is clear that it is rigged, but I'm not comfortable that things like this are presented as so innocent. The idea's been planted and if it's reintroduced to a child when they're older, then it will likely seem benign. Many people might disagree with me on this point, but it follows the process of how to make someone think that something that is unacceptable is actually acceptable. It reminded me of when Saul sought out a seer against God's instructions. Ouija boards are associated with the occult. I wondered if I was taking this little thing a bit extreme and so I asked my husband and mother in law for their opinions. Both agreed that they would be concerned about it's inclusion in the book. 2) At the end, Connor lies to his mom when she asks him a question. In our family, lying (especially to parents) is a big deal. The prime age for this book is 2nd/3rd grade (1st grade advanced readers) and children this age need to know it's not okay to lie to parents or adults. My mother in law made an additional point to me that the children in this story are 4th and 5th graders, yet it will likely be 2nd and 3rd graders reading this story. Younger children look up to older children and the older children in this story are setting a bad example by encouraging the younger children to keep secrets and lie.
My daughter did enjoy the book, but she understood why I felt she should read other books instead. I do definitely recommend the first 3 books in the series as great books for both boys and girls in 2nd/3rd grades. They are great transitional early chapter books. But, I haven't read the 4th or 5th books so I can't give them a clear recommendation.