Thursday, October 08, 2020

Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts

Salerni, Dianne K. Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts
September 1st 2020 by Holiday House
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Eleanor Roosevelt has been living with her Grandmother Hall since her mother and father have both passed away. The older woman is judgmental, austere, and generally unpleasant to live with, but Eleanor doesn't have much choice. She takes some solace in her Aunt Bye, who lives three blocks away in New York City. When her misbehaving cousin Alice, Teddy Roosevelt's daughter, is sent to live with Bye, Eleanor is afraid that this will limit her contact with her favorite aunt, since Alice doesn't seem to live her. Bye is older and pregnant, so when the upstairs ghost light goes off shortly after Alice moves in, the family is very concerned about the infestation. A team is dispatched to investigate, and an inspector (who ends up being Nellie Bly!) comes to ascertain that the ghost is actually Friendly and not Vengeful. While Bye's husband, who gets called to serve in the military in Cuba after the Maine explodes, wants her to move out, she is sure that she will be fine with Alice's and Eleanor's help. The two start to investigate who the progenitor of their ghost might be, in order to eradicate it. This investigation also takes them on a perilous journey to the house where Alice was born, which has been closed ever since the death of her mother and grandmother, due to a ghost infestation. Bye invites other Roosevelt cousins to come, including Corinne and Franklin, of whom Eleanor is especially fond. Alice's younger brother Teddy runs away from home so that he can be part of the fun as well. The cousins don't take the ghost as seriously, and a seance shows them a few clues, but also steps up the mischievous pranks the ghost plays. Alice and Eleanor discover the identity and manner of death of the ghost, and fear that it might not be as Friendly as they suspect. Will they be able to save their family from its intentions?
Strengths: This was such a great ghost mystery, and the combination of actual historical figures thrust into a world with ghosts as a common problem was brilliant. Even Tesla appears with a ghost hunting invention! Neither Eleanor nor Alice had any special powers, but just used their abilities and wits to figure out and solve the mystery. There is a lot of really good information about what both girls' family life was like, and it was sweet to see Franklin and Eleanor together-- surely there was a bit of affection between the two at some point! There's a strong feeling of what life was like in the 1890s, with clothing, activities, servants, and social expectations. I would have adored this as a middle school student.
Weaknesses: The cover could be better. I know cover art can be expensive, but these illustrations make the book look like it was published in the 1980s. Surely there were some 1890s stock photos that could have been used.
What I really think: This was so much fun that I have to buy it. It's not quite as exciting as Stroud's Lockwood and Company (which was heavy duty scary!), but is similar is setting and events to Jink's City of Orphans. My readers who like historical fiction (a slowly growing group) will like this haunted change of pace, and might be motivated to investigate more about Eleanor Roosevelt, one of my favorite historical figures.

Service's Phantom Victory is from 1994, and is a great story, but it's a hard sell because of this cover. I still have it in the library just for fun. From my 2007 review:

Service's Phantom Victory also deals with some issues of time-- years ago, the Victory hotel burned to the ground. Brian and Terri both had relatives connected with the hotel, and the two of them use a diary to uncover clues to a lost treasure that could help the hotel be rebuilt. This was a solid mystery that should be popular with my students now that I know that it is on the shelf! It is cursed, however, with bad '90's cover art.
Ms. Yingling


  1. I love the book blogs

  2. I always liked Pamela F. Service’s work, especially her science fiction. Stinker from Space and Stinker’s Return were fun books.