Review by Linda Harmon
April Sloane was 11 years old and had
never been to school. There was no school in the hollow of the Blue
Ridge Mountains where April and her family lived. She heard that
President Hoover was going to build them a school, but she heard it
from a very irritating source, Dewey Jessup, and so she wouldn't
believe it until she saw it.
She was out hunting ginseng root a
couple of months later when she heard the hammers for the first
time. Upon exploration she found out that Dewey was right, so she
slipped away as often as she could to watch the school being built.
On one of these visits she saw Miss Vest for the first time. April
had never seen a woman as sophisticated as Miss Vest and began to
dream of sitting in her classroom and learning from her.
April's mother had not been the same
since the death of April's younger brother, Riley. He was badly
burned while she was taking care of him, and April carries a dark
secret about the events of that night. Her mother doesn't seem to be
interested in anything, including April. This distance was really
hard on April. Not only did she miss her mother's attention, but she
constantly longed for her approval.
April eventually told her mother about
the school, but her dreams were destroyed when her mother told her
that she had no intention of letting her go to school. Her only hope
of going to school was to enlist the help of her grandmother, known
to all, even April, as Aunt Birdy.
Aunt Birdy was finally able to convince
April's parents that she needed to go to school. She arrived there
bright and early on the opening day of school, and so did a flock of
reporters and cameramen. The opening of the president's school was
big news, but it also made it very hard for Miss Vest to do any
April became an excellent student, and
she and Miss Vest became very close. Miss Vest saw potential and a
need in April that no one besides Aunt Birdy had ever noticed.
[to top of second column in
One day at recess two of the older boys
got into a fight. April was knocked out of the way and ended up with
a badly broken arm. It was too late in the day to get her down the
mountain to the hospital, so she spent the night with Miss Vest in
her apartment at the school. When her mother found out, she was
furious and demanded that April leave school. April and Miss Vest
were devastated, but April's mother wouldn't listen.
The events of the year that April left
school changed her life forever but also brought much-needed
closure. She eventually moved in with Miss Vest and began to believe
that she had a future.
"Ghost Girl" is fiction based on real
events and, in some instances, real people who were involved in the
President's Mountain School in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
President Hoover and his wife, Lou Henry Hoover, had a fishing camp
called Camp Rapidan in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was during one
their visits that Mrs. Hoover noticed that there was no school for
the children in that area, so she and the president decided to build
one. The time frame was the early 1930s, during the Great
Depression. Miss Christine Vest was the real teacher, and most of
the inspiration for the novel came from her letters and other
The author spent a lot of time at the
Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa, looking
through a collection of Hoover letters, diaries and photographs. She
also spent some time with the sons of Christian Vest Witcofski, who
provided many interesting facts about their mother's life during the
time she spent at the President's Mountain School.
This is a
wonderful and touching story about the strength of the human spirit,
love and forgiveness. Woven into the narrative are facts about a
real teacher and a real school. This book is recommended for ages 10
[Linda Harmon, Lincoln
Public Library District]