The International House of Dereliction

The International House of Dereliction Hardcover
Age Range
Release Date
July 18, 2023
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Ten-year-old Alice is moving for the eleventh time.

She’s lived in so many houses, each more broken than the last, that home to Alice is nothing more than a place you fix and then a place you leave. After all, who needs a permanent home when you’re a whiz at fixing things?

But when Alice arrives at her new home, she can’t take her eyes off the house next door, the stately dark house that hulked in the dimming light. The once-grand mansion, now dilapidated and condemned, beckons Alice; it's the perfect new repair job!

As Alice begins to restore the House to its former splendor, she senses strange presences. Is there a heartbeat coming from the House’s walls? Is someone looking at her? Soon she realizes she’s not alone. Three ghosts have been watching, and they need Alice’s help to solve their unfinished business.

Will Alice be able to unravel the mysteries of the House and find her forever home . . . before it’s too late?

Editor review

1 review
A House with Many Secrets
(Updated: October 17, 2023)
Overall rating
Writing Style
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Alice Cannoli-Potchnik is being raised in a small college town where her mother is a professor and her father is a building inspector. The college provides housing, and because the father is so good about renovating properties, the family is shuttled from one decrepit domicile to another. Alice is "unschooled", which means she is left on her own to pursue her own passion projects, checking in with the college library when she needs resources. When another move approaches, Professor Cannoli decides that moving so frequently is bad for Alice, and that the family will not renovate the property. While investigating her new surroundings, Alice notices that the property next door has been condemned. Still intrigued, she goes inside and notices that lovely fire place with Delft tiles. As a new project, she decides to replace the tiles and refurbish the woodwork, skills she has acquired helping her father. She also uses some windfall from a family garage sale to replace crystals in the chandelier. There are odd sounds in the house, and she soon hears voices. The house is pleased with her and gives its blessing to her projects, something she learns from a variety of spirits who dwell within the house. There's Ivy, a six year old who passed aways suddenly before a big trip; Mugwort, a Revolutionary War era soldier who fought with George Washington but died in his bed; and Danny, a computer science major who died in 1972 without letting Jenny, the love of his life, know of his emotions. They teach Alice about all of the ways that spirits can be trapped and unable to move on, and Alice helps them figure out what is holding them back. She finds computer punch cards, gets help retrieving the love poems from them, which she manages to deliver to Jenny, who happens to be a visiting professor at the college, in the nick of time. Danny moves on. She uncovers information about Mugwort's history, and directs him to make amends for his wartime profiteering by donating money to a Soldier's Home as well as the local cemetary. Ivy has a library book that wasn't returned, and just as Alice is about to search for it, word comes that the house is going to be torn down. Ivy thinks the book might be in the attic, but there is another spirit in the house, The Fury, who doesn't want to let Alice and Ivy investigate the attic. Alice needs to fight the spirit, who has an intriguing connection to her own family, and send Ivy on her way before the house is demolished, and also find a way for her family to stop being moved to different residences.
Good Points
I rather enjoyed reading this one since I'm a fan of old houses and their history, and the ghosts and the mission to send them to the light were well developed. Alice's sense of ability and agency is great to see, even if it hurt my feelings that all of her hard work to restore bits of the house was undone! The ghosts are all a bit scattered, but manage to retrieve important information about their backgrounds in order for Alice to help them move along, and her dedication to them was heartwarming. The bits of history, especially about the computer punch cards, were fun. There's a lot of figurative language and rich descriptions in this, which I don't remember from Davies' other books like Nothing But Trouble (2016) or The Lemonade War (2007) series.

This had a quirky, almost British feel to it, something like Raskin's The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel). Also, I'm pretty sure that small colleges don't operate the way that this one does and that the Cannoli-Potchniks wouldn't have survived very long in their almost condemned house.

This is a good choice for readers who like a quirky, house-centered story like West's The Shadows or O'Reilly's The Secret of Goldenrod. I'm not sure that my students will pick it up, since they are adamant that ghosts should be murderously gory. More astute and nuanced readers who would themselves be successful at unschooling will enjoy this story.
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