Almost There and Almost Not (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

This small volume has a powerful story about how important the love of a dog, friendship and bread and butter letters.  California is eleven and her father has left at her Aunt Monica’s with her boxes and her fancy pen.  Encouraged by two ghosts, a dog and a cranky woman, California begins writing letters to the people she has encountered and troubles and new connections begin to surface.  The writing is so beautiful that I wish I could receive a letter from California.  I would treasure it.

— Laura


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...

About the Author

Linda Urban has written many award-winning books for young readers, including the novels Almost There and Almost NotA Crooked Kind of PerfectHound Dog TrueThe Center of Everything, and Talk Santa to Me. 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

Praise For…

"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."

Product Details
ISBN: 9781534478800
ISBN-10: 1534478809
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 6th, 2021
Pages: 224
Language: English