Almost There and Almost Not

Atheneum. Apr. 2021. 224p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534478800.
Gr 4 Up–In this poignant tale of dealing with ghosts, both literal and figurative, 11-year-old California Poppy, who is white, hasn’t had it easy; her mom died a few years ago, and her dad isn’t very attentive. Now her dad has an opportunity to earn some money in Alaska—but that’s no place for a girl, according to him, so California is sent to one aunt, and then another while he’s away. As California gets settled in at her Great-Aunt Monica’s house, she discovers some unique housemates: the ghost of her ancestor, Eleanor; a famous etiquette expert; and Dog, another ghost, who brings her scraps of paper on which mysterious notes are written. Soon, California is helping Great-Aunt Monica, learning how to write proper letters from Eleanor, and playing with Dog. Things seem pretty great, but California knows it could all change if she has to leave again. This tale of friendly ghosts is more appropriate for fans of realistic fiction than spooky stories; the text, sprinkled with California’s letters to everyone from her Aunt Isabel to a tampon company, infuses the text with the girl’s personality. California blossoms from a girl with low self-esteem into someone who believes in herself, her talents, and her family’s love. Urban’s gentle treatment of tough topics like loss, neglect, and alcoholism makes them accessible for younger readers.
VERDICT Characters shine in this story of unlikely friendships and familial love; a solid addition to any middle grade collection.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing