ghostsgalleryGhosts in the Gallery by Barbara Brooks Wallace, 2000.

Eleven-year-old Jenny was raised in China by her mother and stepfather, who ran a dance studio. She has no memory of her real father, who died when she was a baby. When her stepfather dies and her mother becomes deathly ill, her mother writes a letter to her real father’s father, a grandfather that Jenny never even knew existed before. In the letter, her mother explains that she is dying and that she will be sending Jenny to live with her grandfather. Then, Jenny starts the long journey from China to the East coast of the United States alone.

Leaving her dying mother to head to a strange country to live with her previously unknown relations is frightening enough, but there is still worse to come. When Jenny arrives at her wealthy grandfather’s home, no one is expecting her or knows who she is. Her uncle, Winston Graymark, insists that her mother’s letter never arrived. Worse still, he believes that Jenny is an imposter, and that her mother merely made up the story about his long-lost brother being her father.

At first, he angrily threatens to send Jenny back to China, but Madame Dupray, a servant who cares for Jenny’s ill grandfather, suggests that she be taken on as a household servant. Jenny is given a dreary little room in the cellar and embarks on the drudgery of household chores. Could the Graymarks really be her relatives? If so, what happened to the letter that Jenny’s mother sent? Something sinister is happening in Graymark House, and Jenny will have to face suspicious servants and attempted murder before she finds the truth.

The “ghosts” in the title are the portraits of Jenny’s ancestors, which hang in the gallery. They appear grim and frightening at first, but when Jenny begins to recognize them as her relatives, they no longer frighten her.  Like many of Wallace’s books, this book contains sinister characters with hidden motives, but ends happily.  The story takes place at some point during the Victorian era.


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