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From acclaimed author Linda Urban comes the funny, bittersweet story of a girl and her ghosts—and the welcoming home they find where they least expect it.

California Poppy has been dropped off, yet again, with an unsuspecting relative. This time it’s her eccentric Great-Aunt Monica, a woman she’s never even met. Aunt Monica has no idea what to do with an eleven-year-old, so she puts California to work researching their ancestor, the once-famous etiquette expert Eleanor Fontaine.

California soon discovers that Great-Great-Great Aunt Eleanor is...not exactly alive and well, but a ghost—and a super sensitive one at that. The grand dame bursts into clouds of dust whenever she loses her composure, which happens quite often. Still, an unexpected four-legged friend and some old-fashioned letter writing make this decidedly strange situation one that California can handle.

Just as California’s starting to feel like she’s found a place for herself, life turns upside-down yet again. Thankfully, this time she has some friends almost by her side...

Chapter 1

1
Great-Great-Great-Aunt Eleanor was really named Elsie.

She won’t admit it, even though she’s little more than a bluster through a room, thin and gray and dusty enough to sneeze at. Eleanor, she insists. Hint of a British accent.

She was raised in Kansas.

I know about Kansas because of Dog.

Dog tells the truth. Or brings it to me, really. It’s not like he can talk. Living or not, he’s still a dog.

I tried to tell my not-so-great Aunt Monica about this once, and she nearly felt my forehead.

I don’t mention Dog anymore.

And I call the great-great-great-aunt Eleanor. What’s the harm? Dead people deserve whatever names they want, I think, though if I had my choice, I’d rather not wait until dying to rid myself of California. People make comments about a name like California.

“What was your mother thinking?” asks Aunt Monica.

“What indeed?” asks Eleanor.

“Watch it,” I warn the deader of my aunts.

Good thing about ghosts is they’re so much your elders, you don’t need to mind them.

That, and their swats go straight through you.

Linda Urban has written many award-winning books for young readers, including the novels Almost There and Almost Not, A Crooked Kind of Perfect, Hound Dog True, and The Center of Everything. For ten years, she served as marketing director at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California. Currently, she teaches in the Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has been visited by only one ghost, and he was not at all snooty. Visit her at LindaUrbanBooks.com.

"Urban deftly tackles loss, longing, loneliness, and neglect...Skillfully written with well-drawn characters." 

– Kirkus Reviews

"Details about California’s struggles unfurl in poignant matter-of-fact reveals . . . California’s personable narrative celebrates quiet moments of kindness and the eventual discovery of love in her life.”

– Publishers Weekly

"Urban unspools both California’s and Eleanor’s stories with a gentle patience . . . The ghostly element here feels more magical than haunting, and fans of Rebecca Stead and Erin Entrada Kelly will appreciate the realistic emotional turmoil touched with a dash of fantasy."

– BCCB