The Afterlife Academy by Frank L. ColeThe Afterlife Academy by Frank L. Cole

The Afterlife Academy

byFrank L. Cole

Paperback | September 13, 2016

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Fans of Adam Gidwitz and Neil Gaiman will love this middle-grade adventure about two boys, a mysterious, old book with some dark secrets, and a horde of angry demons. Nothing could go wrong, right?

When Walter Prairie is struck dead by a bolt of lightning, he’s fast-tracked through the Afterlife Academy and assigned as a Guardian Agent to protect a High-Level Target.
   Walter’s HLT, Charlie Dewdle, isn’t the most popular kid in school. He’s a bit paranormally obsessed. And he has just found an old book that could be used to open the Gateway for demons to wreak havoc on earth.
   Now, it’s up to Charlie and Walter to fight an eclectic horde of enemies and protect humankind at all costs. But saving the world isn’t so easy. Especially when your protector doesn’t know the first thing about the underworld, bullies like Mo Horvath are trying to hunt you down, pretty and popular Melissa Bittner is suddenly talking to you, and your parents think you’re going crazy.

A Whitney Award Nominee
 
“An appealing ghost story without being creepy, this title would be a great read for any reader looking for a mix of adventure and humor.”—School Library Journal
 
“A fun, suspenseful read. . . . Cole's fast-paced fantasy can be enjoyed by the entire family.”—Deseret News

"The adventure of a lifetime--or after-lifetime."--OBERT SKYE, author of the Leven Thumps series

"A fast-paced and fun adventure that puts a new twist on the afterlife!"--PLATTE F. CLARK, author of Bad Unicorn
 
“Tons of fun and adventure with every turn of the page. . . . This is the perfect middle-grade book, and I loved it!”—LDSWBR

A Whitney Award Nominee
 
“An appealing ghost story without being creepy, this title would be a great read for any reader looking for a mix of adventure and humor.”—School Library Journal
 
“A fun, suspenseful read. . . . Cole's fast-paced fantasy can be enjoyed by the entire family.”—Deseret News

"The adventure of a lifetime--or after-lifetime."--OBERT SKYE, author of the Leven Thumps series

"A fast-paced and fun adventure that puts a new twist on the afterlife!"--PLATTE F. CLARK, author of Bad Unicorn
 
“Tons of fun and adventure with every turn of the page. . . . This is the perfect middle-grade book, and I loved it!”—LDSWBR
Frank L. Cole lives with his wife and three children out west. Over the years, he has seen his share of wraiths and shades, but thankfully, he hasn’t seen any banshees just yet. When he’s not writing books or dodging demons, Frank enjoys going to the movies and traveling. The Afterlife Academy is Frank’s eighth published book. His Guar...
Title:The Afterlife AcademyFormat:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 7.62 × 5.2 × 0.67 inPublished:September 13, 2016Publisher:Random House Children's BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:038539148X

ISBN - 13:9780385391481

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Read from the Book

1Disturbing NewsWalter Prairie was weeding his family’s garden as punishment for punching the neighbor bully in the lip, when his world lit up with a bright white flash. It happened so suddenly, he barely had time to blink. He felt a warm breeze and heard the sound of soft music as his surroundings blurred, then disappeared.When he opened his eyes, he looked down, expecting still to be holding the garden trowel. But it was gone. Then he noticed how pink and clean his skin looked. His nails glowed.“What the--” Walter yelped as he held his fingers close to his eyes, trying to focus. Someone was going to get slugged for painting his nails.Walter glanced around and realized that he was in an office. It looked like a principal’s office. What was he doing there?Brightly lit hallways stretched endlessly from the room. He could see no fewer than a hundred closed doors along either side. Unless his school had recently gone through a remodel without him being aware of it, this wasn’t the principal’s office at Yorkshire Middle School. And what was with the strange harplike music playing in the background? Walter cocked his head to the side, listening to what sounded like the Tasty Nibs cat food commercial. He could almost see the weird disembodied cat head bouncing across the screen as he sang the jingle in his mind.Tasty Nibs, Tasty Nibs. Keep your paws off, I got dibs. Mee-ow.“Please state your name and age.” A voice snapped Walter out of his daze. A squirrelly-looking man with dark-rimmed glasses sat at a desk, where a tower of brown folders teetered almost to the ceiling.Walter jiggled his pinky in his ear. “Huh?”“Your name and age.” The man pulled a folder from the middle of the tower.“Dude!” Flinching, Walter stuck out his hands to keep the folders from toppling. The tower swayed precariously from left to right, but no folders fell. Not even the ones from the tip-top. “My name’s Walter,” he mumbled. “I’m twelve.”The man snapped his fingers impatiently. “Your full name, Walter. Chop-chop. I need to make sure we have a match.”“A match for what?” Walter asked. The man pressed the tips of his fingers together and flared his nostrils. “Okay, okay. I’m Walter Prairie. Who are you?”“I am Alton Tremonton.” The man forced out the words without separating his teeth. “And you, Walter Prairie, are dead.”2A Shady GatheringCharlie Dewdle knelt on top of a massive dirt pile behind the condemned shopping mall on Victory Junction. He was a thin boy with pale, freckled skin and a shock of messy, bright red--almost orange--hair. Above him, wilted gray clouds gathered in the warm autumn sky. The weatherman had predicted rain yet again. It would be the third storm in six days. The quiet city of Gabbiter, Iowa, had never been so wet.A bright green blip appeared on the screen of Charlie’s electromagnetic field detector as he scanned the large hole he had just discovered. Charlie knew all about the ins and outs of EMF. He had read many books on the subject and had even taken an online class on how to use his detector to track ghosts.Charlie pressed “record” on his video camera, which was positioned on a tripod near the hole, then stepped into view of the lens, still holding the EMF detector.“At precisely”--he checked his watch--“four-thirty p.m., following a tip from a reliable source, I, Charlie Dewdle, discovered what appears to be the burial site of the notorious Friedman Salinger.”There had been no reliable source, and Charlie didn’t really believe the hole held the grave of Friedman Salinger, the long-dead Colton County strangler. But no one in the paranormally inclined world cared about empty, boring holes. His video needed a little drama before he submitted it to his favorite website. Besides, who knew?Demolition on the shopping mall property had ceased two months earlier, when the mayor of Gabbiter had informed the public that part of the building was a historic landmark. It had been brought to the mayor’s attention that the eastern wing, which once housed the movie theater, was older than the town itself.“It is my civic duty to prevent the further demolition of such a cherished piece of history,” Mayor Tungsten had said in his television interview. “Who knows what sorts of memories will be found down there? Until we invest our energies in uncovering them, construction on the new water park will be postponed.”Most of Charlie’s classmates hated the mayor for making that announcement. The Typhoon Water Park was going to have seven epic water slides, a lazy river for rafting, and the second-largest wave pool in the central United States.But Charlie hated swimming. He sunburned too easily and didn’t enjoy the taste of chlorine. The water park could wait. Especially since historic stone structures were almost always hot spots for lingering ghosts and spirits.“As you can see, the electromagnetic readings are off the charts,” Charlie said into the camera. Digging in his backpack, he pulled out his helmet flashlight and fastened it atop his messy red hair. “Time to see what ol’ Salinger wanted to keep hidden from the world.”Charlie lay on his stomach and directed the headlamp into the darkness. The hole sank at least six feet underground. Charlie’s skin prickled. Something down that deep really could mean a burial plot. Salinger’s burial plot. The light from his helmet glinted off the corner of something at the bottom, and he leaned forward for a better view.“Ahoy!” Charlie hollered, then checked over his shoulder to make sure no one had heard. It was a book. It had a dark cover and metal cornerpieces.Taking great care to keep from falling, Charlie descended into the hole and pulled the book from its resting place. It had to be at least a hundred years old. The cover was worn and cracked, the pages thick and waxy. Charlie narrowed his eyes as he carefully dusted the cover free of grime and attempted to read the title. But the words were in some foreign language.Charlie noticed that the EMF detector was burping as several green circles appeared on the screen. He smacked the monitor with his hand. “Worthless piece of--” He froze midsentence and stared back at the book. Taking the EMF detector in his hand, he grazed it over the cover. The circles of green light grew brighter. He flipped the book over. The lights quivered, and the detector suddenly made an unusual whop-whop-whopping sound. Charlie grinned, but in his stomach he felt a tiny tingle of fear. He couldn’t understand why, since finding something mysterious at the bottom of a hole should’ve filled him with joy.Perhaps it was because Charlie was no longer alone.At that very moment, three dark spirits from the Underworld--shades, as they preferred to be called--were gathering around him.3A Strange Realization“I’m dead?” Walter gnawed on his lip. I’m dead. Somehow, he knew it was true. He didn’t know why it made sense, but it did.“Yep. Sorry.” Alton made a frowny face. The kind that people made when they didn’t really feel sorry at all. Scrunched nose. Puckered lips. Walter wanted to punch it off Alton’s face, but slugging an adult, even a puny, rude one perched behind a desk, wasn’t a great idea.“How come I’m not sad or anything? And why don’t I miss my parents?” Walter asked.“Because you’ve gone through a Cleansing. Standard procedure. It helps you move on without any grief.”“I don’t remember any . . . cleansing.” Did they wash everyone in a big bathtub after they died? That would explain his pinkish skin and glossy fingernails. Walter glanced up at the wall behind Alton’s desk and stared at a clock in the shape of a pig wearing a bow tie and a party hat. Though there were numbers on the clock indicating the different hours of the day, there wasn’t a minute or a second hand.“Of course you don’t.” Alton massaged the wrinkles in his brow with his fingers. “Who would want to remember a three-day mourning period? The memory of your Cleansing has been completely erased from your mind. Dead people no longer have to worry about things like their families and such.”Walter stared down at his body and saw the same clothing he had been wearing while out in the garden: a red-and-white-striped shirt with denim shorts that stopped below his knees, and scuffed sneakers.“This is what you wear when you’re dead?” He tugged at the end of his shirt.Alton leaned forward. “That is what you wear.”“Forever?”“Could be worse,” Alton mumbled, returning his attention to Walter’s file. “You could be wearing that awful outfit your parents buried you in this morning. Chocolate-brown pants and a paisley tie.” Alton shuddered.Walter’s eyes narrowed as he began to concoct a rude comeback, but he decided it wasn’t worth it. “So what do I do now?”“Now? You are Categorized, and then you must complete a questionnaire based on your chosen Category. Two thousand questions. All very critical to your eventual placement within your Category--or another, if you are deemed unsuitable for your choice.”“A pop quiz with two thousand questions?” Walter squeaked. “That’s ridiculous! What is this place? It doesn’t sound like heaven.”Alton smiled and continued. “Oh, right. Your report did mention your aptitude for grasping new ideas was a little low. This isn’t heaven.”“It’s not?” Walter wondered if he had somehow ticked off the wrong guy. “Then is it . . .”“No, it isn’t that place either. Seriously, do I look like someone who would be employed in the other location?” Alton sighed exhaustedly. “This is a Categorizing Office. Not everyone goes here when they die, but some souls do. I tend to see a lot of youths, athletes, and geniuses. Obviously, you are the foremost.” He examined his fingernails for a moment. “So, is it all clear now?”Walter shook his head. “No! It doesn’t make any sense. If I’m really dead, why didn’t I go to heaven? I’ve been mostly good, haven’t I?”Alton shrugged and slid a thick binder across the desk. “I don’t know, and I don’t care. That’s not my job. But if it makes you feel any better, ninety-nine percent of the folks who pass through a Categorizing Office will eventually end up in heaven. It’s the decision of the higher-ups”--Alton raised his eyes to the ceiling and jabbed his pointer finger toward it--“to give you the opportunity to be useful until you’re ready. There are many fields of expertise from which you may choose, although I must point out that you’re not guaranteed a spot in any of them.”While Alton spoke, Walter examined the binder. Each page contained a bold heading describing a job performed by individuals in the Afterlife and a list of its requirements. One of the categories was titled Counseling the Confused. Centered on the page just beneath the heading was a picture of a woman lying on a couch while another woman sat in a large wingback chair, in a state of pondering. Walter read the description.Many of the Recently Departed require extra attention after their Cleansing. Some poor souls find it difficult to let go and move on. They need a shoulder to cry on, a willing ear to listen, or a bold voice of reason. Those with social work backgrounds or a degree in psychology are certain to find this assignment both enriching and rewarding.“What the heck?” Walter muttered. “Who would want to be a guidance counselor for dead people?”There were more than fifty different Categories, including Dead Pet Foster Care, Celestial Construction, Heavenly Choir Participant, and . . .“Grim Reaper Assistant?” Walter gulped.“Ah, then you have chosen a Category,” Alton said, smiling. “Excellent choice.”“No! I was just reading out loud.” Walter hastily continued flipping through the pages. “So let me get this straight. I’m supposed to choose one of these jobs, and then I have to do it for a few years, and then I go to heaven?”“Sounds to me like you finally understand. Well done!” Alton’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “Now, perhaps we could get on with it sometime this decade.”Walter closed the book and slid it a few inches back in Alton’s direction. “What’s heaven like?”“How should I know?”“Oh. Did you just die too?”“Did I just die?” Alton echoed in disbelief. “Absurd!”“Well, why haven’t you gone there yet?” Walter pried. “Were you one of the one percent that didn’t make it?”“I most certainly was not!” Alton huffed. “We all have jobs to do, and some of our jobs take us longer to complete.”“Don’t you ever take a break and go check it out?”Alton’s eyes narrowed. “I do not take breaks. In fifty years at my post, I have never taken a single break.”Just then, one of the doors down the left hallway opened, and three young boys, maybe a year older than Walter, appeared and began walking toward him.4A Narrow EscapeEvil had the same effect on shades as pimiento cheese sandwiches had on Charlie. Its delicious aroma drew them in.Charlie couldn’t hear the shades, or see them, for that matter, but he felt cold. The hairs on his neck quivered as one of the dark spirits moved right next to him, floating mere inches from his ear. Charlie rubbed his arms.“Why doesn’t the boy open the book?” it whispered. Shades, while low on the Underworld totem pole, did have impressive powers of persuasion.Charlie opened the book, and the shades fell silent as they began to read. Then, all at once, they released a collective gasp.“What is this?” one asked with giddiness in its throat.“It has so much power!” said another.As they swirled around Charlie, the lights on the EMF detector danced feverishly.Charlie closed the book and gulped. He had to get home.Cramming all his belongings, including the strange book, into his backpack, Charlie raced down the dirt hill. As he rounded the corner onto Victory Junction, he plowed face-first into something large and alive. It was Mo Horvath. The meanest guy in school.“What are the odds?” Charlie groaned.“Hey, guys, look at this turd!” Mo clasped his meaty fingers around the scruff of Charlie’s neck. “It’s Charlie Doo-doodle.”A chorus of snickers erupted. “Yeah! It’s Charlie Poople!” said Wheeler, by far the most idiotic of the bunch.Mo sneered at Wheeler. “Not Poople, stupid. It’s Doo-doodle.”Wheeler blinked in confusion, and Charlie desperately searched for a gap to shimmy his way through.“Yes, it’s me,” Charlie said, sucking on his teeth. Mo had given Charlie the nickname Doo-doodle at the beginning of the school year. It wasn’t growing on him.

Editorial Reviews

A Whitney Award Nominee   “An appealing ghost story without being creepy, this title would be a great read for any reader looking for a mix of adventure and humor.”—School Library Journal “A fun, suspenseful read. . . . Cole's fast-paced fantasy can be enjoyed by the entire family.”—Deseret News"The adventure of a lifetime--or after-lifetime."--OBERT SKYE, author of the Leven Thumps series"A fast-paced and fun adventure that puts a new twist on the afterlife!"--PLATTE F. CLARK, author of Bad Unicorn   “Tons of fun and adventure with every turn of the page. . . . This is the perfect middle-grade book, and I loved it!”—LDSWBR