Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts
Dianne K. Salerni
Published September 1, 2020
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About Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts
Murderous ghosts and buried family secrets threaten young Eleanor and Alice Roosevelt in this thrilling middle-grade novel that puts a supernatural spin on alternate history.
It’s 1898 in New York City and ghosts exist among humans.
When an unusual spirit takes up residence at the Roosevelt house, thirteen-year-old Eleanor and fourteen-year-old Alice are suspicious. The cousins don’t get along, but they know something is not right. This ghost is more than a pesky nuisance. The authorities claim he’s safe to be around, even as his mischievous behavior grows stranger and more menacing. It’s almost like he wants to scare the Roosevelts out of their home – and no one seems to care!
Meanwhile, Eleanor and Alice discover a dangerous ghost in the house where Alice was born and her mother died. Is someone else haunting the family? Introverted Eleanor and unruly Alice develop an unlikely friendship as they explore the family’s dark, complicated history. It’s up to them to destroy both ghosts and come to terms with their family’s losses.
Told from alternating perspectives, thrills and chills abound in Dianne K. Salerni’s imaginative novel about a legendary family and the ghosts that haunt their secrets.
I didn’t realize when I first picked up this book that the main characters were going to be the actual historical figures, Eleanor and Alice Roosevelt. For some reason I imagined they would maybe be named after them or something else? Anyway, it was a pleasant surprise!
So the book takes place in an alternate history in which ghosts are not uncommon. They “erupt” sometimes soon after a person’s death and sometimes years later. Sometimes the ghosts have no interaction with the living, and other times they actively try to kill people. When a ghost appears, it’s classified in terms of its behavior toward others and any risk posed to the living. It’s a super fascinating idea, and I loved that it’s anchored in history by the presence of historical figures in the story (not limited to Roosevelts).
I really enjoyed both Eleanor and Alice’s points of view. Eleanor is methodical and sweet but shy. Alice is more impulsive and outspoken. At first getting along is a bit difficult for the girls, but they figure out how to work together as a growing threat from a ghost emerges.
Some of the scenes are a bit eerie, and but I thought a couple were actually frightening. A ghost attacks a group of children, saying creepy things about killing them and clearly trying to murder them. Later, a fire breaks out in someone’s home and nearly kills several people.
On the whole I wouldn’t classify the book as scary, but it does have those moments. I loved the tension as Eleanor and Alice try to find out what happened to the boy who haunts their aunt’s home. I also loved the appearances by Nellie Bly, , and Franklin Roosevelt, and Emily Spinach.
The author has included a note at the end of the book that clarifies some of the story elements which are true and where she took some artistic license. My favorite true fact was that Alice Roosevelt did indeed keep a green snake as a pet, and its name was in fact Emily Spinach.
I think this book makes a particularly fun fall read, and a wonderful way to inspire learning more about historical figures.
Recommended for Ages 10 to 14.
Major characters are white.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
The story contains ghosts, some of which are harmless, but others of which try to murder people. Several characters organize a séance to try to communicate with a ghost.
Some ghosts try to kill the people they interact with. In more than one scene, characters encounter such a ghost and must escape.
References to the fact that Eleanor’s father died due to his alcoholism.
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