Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts

Written by Dianne K. Salerni
Review by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

Ghosts have been categorized into three types: Unawares, who are unaware of being a ghost and do not bother humans; Friendlies, who interact with humans and are harmless; and Vengefuls, who are violent and murderous. When 12-year-old Alice Roosevelt (daughter of Teddy, who is not yet president) is sent to stay with her pregnant Aunt Bye, a ghost erupts in front of her in the hall. The ghost is incorrectly labeled Friendly by investigators, and Aunt Bye decides they can keep living in the house. Alice invites her 12-year-old cousin Eleanor to help her research the past owners of the house and figure out who the ghost is/was. In their investigations, they discover that a dangerous Vengeful haunts the house in which Alice was born—and erupted only days after her birth and the deaths of her mother and grandmother.

The concept for this story is totally bizarre—but this book is a delight! Alice and Eleanor are sympathetic and charming characters, and Salerni develops their personalities, fashion, and physical attributes so they are easily recognizable to readers of history. Other historical figures, such as Nellie Bly, Nicola Tesla, and a whole gob of Roosevelts including (of course) Franklin, pop in and out of the story. Salerni mixes the real with the not real in a way that related to me as a person currently living through the Covid-19 pandemic: What should be normal isn’t, and what isn’t is, and you just have to roll with it.

A Roosevelt family tree in the front and an Author’s Note at the end help separate fact from fiction. An immensely fun read. Ages 9-12.