Review of Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts

Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts
by Dianne K. Salerni
Intermediate, Middle School    Holiday    240 pp.    g
8/20    978-0-8234-4697-1    $17.99

In an alternate-universe 1898 New York City, cousins Eleanor and Alice Roosevelt unite to solve the mystery of the ghost who has recently “erupted” in their aunt Bye’s house. Here ghost eruptions are common; professional diagnosticians determine if spirits are Friendlies, Unawares, or Vengefuls. The one haunting Aunt Bye’s house is initially categorized as a Friendly — so why the vicious pranks, the cruel auditory hallucinations, the attempted poisoning of Aunt Bye, and worse? Salerni skillfully incorporates facts about the extended Roosevelt family (Theodore’s grief over his first wife’s death; the burgeoning romance between Eleanor and Franklin) into a lively and inventive ghost story/mystery/historical fiction mashup. Chapters alternate between Eleanor’s and Alice’s point of views, allowing readers insight into each young woman’s thoughts, emotions, and personality. Introverted and awkward, Eleanor longs to continue her education in London and escape life with her oppressive Grandmother Hall; daring, self-confident, outrageously misbehaving Alice misses the mother she never knew and longs for her distant father’s attention. Initially not at all close, the two bond over their shared mission to solve the mystery and dispatch the ghost, and in so doing uncover a second haunting and a dark family secret. Although the novel is engrossing right from the start, tensions build very quickly to a thrilling, Ghostbusters-esque climax, and readers will never think about FDR in quite the same way again after seeing him swing an iron poker at a ghost — though in fact it is Eleanor and Alice who finish the job. Who you gonna call? An author’s note provides additional information about the Roosevelt family.

From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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