Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts by Dianne K. Salerni

I know a lot about the Roosevelt family. A lot. I’ve read about 60 books on various members, and have watched Ken Burns’ The Roosevelts somewhere around 50-60 times (not all at once–it is seven parts long!). And I was looking for some “spooky” reads for October, Eleanor, Alice and the Roosevelt Ghosts came under my radar. I knew this middle-grade book would be perfect for me.

From the Publisher: 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.”

First off, props to the author for untangling the confusing Roosevelt family tree. And making her characters act much as the real people acted, according to all historical sources. So many of the real Roosevelt facts were woven into the story, although some were changed, and in the author’s notes, it is explained what was changed.

Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts is a world where all these real things happened, but there are also ghosts. Eleanor lives with a ghost uncle who like Wild Turkey, taking his rifle and firing out the second-story window at night. (But in real life, Eleanor actually had two live uncles that liked to do that. Really). Alice, oldest daughter of Theodore Roosevelt and his first wife, also called Alice, arrives at Aunty Bye’s house for a visit. Aunt Bye was the one that took care of Alice for the first three years of her life, after her mother died the day after giving birth. (And in real life, Martha Roosevelt, Theodore’s mother, also died in the same house on the same day, not several days later as described in the book). There appears to be a ghost at Aunt Bye’s and investigators from the Supernatural Registry of Ghosts deem it a “Friendly” ghost. But it is anything but that.

Eleanor and Alice and their cousins Franklin and Corinne and Helen and Alice’s brother Teddy investigate and find out the ghost is a boy of about 12 who lived in the house many years before. Alice contacts the Supernatural Registry and none other than Nellie Bly shows up, having retired from investigative journalism to take care of her elder husband and head up this unique agency. And Nellie Bly shows up later with one Nikolai Tesla, who is thought to be a crackpot in some circles but has some very astute observations about ghosts and a machine to coax them out of hiding.

Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts is a crazy, wild ride, with quite a bit of history mixed in. It’s the perfect way to get middle graders interested in the Roosevelts.

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