Alice and her parents, Professor Cannoli (her mother) and George Potchnik (her father) are facing their eleventh move in Alice’s ten years. Housing is part of Professor Cannoli’s compensation at the college she works for, but the problem is that George and Alice are quite good at fixing things. They fix each house the family moves into so well that the college sells the house for a big profit, then moves them into a new wreck. Professor Cannoli, arguing that Alice is of an age in which being rooted in one home is critical, devises a plan to get the college to let them stay in their new house forever. Rather than fix up their new home, the Cannoli-Potchnick family must accept their new home’s shortcomings without fixing a thing until the college grants it to them as permanent housing. Once moved in, Alice, who is unschooled, feels drawn to the condemned mansion next door, and quickly gets the “Potchnik itch” to begin repairs. As she secretly fixes the house, she discovers that it seems to be alive… and protective of the ghosts who occupy it. The ghosts on their end, believe that Alice has received the “blessing of the house” because SHE can actually see and hear them. As Alice works on her restoration, she gains the trust of The House and unravels clues about the ghosts’ past that will help them move on from the home to become “Settled.” All of this happens as demolition day approaches for the old mansion.
THOUGHTS: This is an absolute gem of a book, with many different layers for middle grade readers to enjoy. Jacqueline Davis successfully creates a unique world of ghosts in which they are classified as Past Dues, Settled Ones, Wanderers, or Captives, depending on their circumstances. Each ghost appears to Alice in a variety of different forms and with different characteristics (twinkling shards of glass, raindrops, angry squiggles, etc.) that reflect their mood and past. Alice, her parents, and the professors at the college are quirky with unique personalities developed to the author’s descriptions, vocabulary, and writing style for each. This is not a ghost story to scare or thrill, but one to engross middle grade readers in a world of family, the passage of time, character, and storytelling. Highly recommended for all libraries looking for a great story or to expand their readers’ perception of “ghosts.”