Charlotte is looking forward to a great summer in her new home, despite her many baby-sitting duties. But someone else seems to be helping her watch her little brother. Someone only he can see. Gradually Charlotte realizes her all-too-normal house is haunted-by the ghost of a girl who doesn't or won't realize that she's dead.
Set around the Fourth of July, this story offers two perspectives-one of the living and one of the dead-in a wholly entertaining and thought-provoking way.
|Publisher:||Penguin Young Readers Group|
|Sold by:||Penguin Group|
|File size:||167 KB|
|Age Range:||9 - 12 Years|
About the Author
I sold my first short story in 1986, and my first book. The audience I aim for, generally, is myself at age ten. I have known seven year olds who read my books with pleasure, and fourteen year olds who found them too hard. Children demand better books than adults do, so I try to answer the demand. The Ghost Sitter is my attempt at a realistic ghost story. In real life (I read true ghost stories extensively), ghosts seldom understand that they're dead, and haunt all sorts of places, even suburban tract homes, not just Gothic mansions.
Readers who want to know me any better than this can check out our webpage.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter One: The Blue House
Moving was a heck of a way to spend the first day of vacation, but Charlotte was too glad to get out of the apartment to mind much. Besides, Mom, Bart, and the movers were doing all the hard work. Her only job, oh joy, was to keep Brandon out from underfoot. Bart set up the playpen under the big peach tree in the backyard of their new blue house. "You two going to be okay back here?" he asked.
"Sure," said Charlotte, dangling Sock Monkey in front of Brandon's face. "Can I climb this tree?"
"Better not, if you want to get any peaches off of it," said Bart. "Holler if you need anything."
Charlotte looked up into the branches, counted the fuzzy green knobs that would be peaches some day, and smiled. Dumping Brandon's toys into the playpen, she watched him scramble for the ring-stack puzzle. "You know, kid, this is a great place," she said. "We'll have fresh peaches off our own tree this summer. I'll keep my bike in the shed, and I can get a cat. We'll play in the yard every day. You can mess up your own room as much as you want, and stay out of mine. How's that sound?"
"Big first," said Brandon, grubbing for stray plastic doughnuts among the toys around him.
"That's right," said Charlotte. Mom said if they all talked to Brandon as if he could understand, he'd learn to have real conversations. "The big green one. Where's that?"
Baby-sitting Brandon took only half Charlotte's brain as long as he was in the pen. She watched him work through the mysteries of the ring-stack puzzle, a frown of concentration on his face. She could barely remember what it was like to be little, to live in a mysterious world too big to take in all at once. Brandon had to focus tightly on one thing at a time in order to think at all. He couldn't daydream or plan, the way Charlotte could, about long hot summer afternoons playing in the shade of the peach tree. They'd swim at the municipal pool four blocks away. When she felt like being alone, she'd leave Brandon with Bart, go into her room, and shut the door. When...
A door banged. Charlotte looked up. A girl carrying two plastic cups marched out of the house next door and up to the fence. "Hi," she said. "I'm Shannon Kohn. Want some lemonade?"
"Okay," said Charlotte. "I'm Charlotte Verstuyft." She walked over to the chain-link fence and took the sweating plastic cup offered to her. She and Shannon sized each other up. Charlotte was the shorter, but Shannon was the skinnier.
"Did you just come to town?" asked Shannon.
"No," said Charlotte. "We were in an apartment on the west side.
But Mom got a job on this side of town. My stepdad's going to convert the garage into an office for his consulting business, and we'll save on
day care for Brandon and rent on a storefront, and everything's going to be so cool."
"Is Brandon your stepbrother?"
"Half brother. Bart and Mom got married ages ago."
Shannon waved at Brandon. He waved Sock Monkey back. "He's cute," she said. "I hope the ghost doesn't scare him."
Charlotte eyed Shannon suspiciously. "What ghost?"
"The one in your house," said Shannon, looking her straight in the eye.
"Ha-ha," said Charlotte, folding her arms. "This house isn't old enough to have a ghost."
"It's not so new. This whole subdivision was built right after World War II. That was a long time ago."
Nothing could be more ordinary than this subdivision of nearly identical houses on nearly identical cul-de-sacs. The casement windows of the back bedroom stood open wide, and Charlotte could see and hear the movers wrestling Mom and Bart's ordinary bed through the ordinary door. "Not long enough ago to make a ghost."
"You'll see," said Shannon. "Or maybe you'll hear. Little kids and animals can see her, but once you get older you can't."
"That's because she's not there," said Charlotte, tired of being polite about this.
"Is too," retorted Shannon. "I saw her. I was real little so I can hardly remember, but I threw a ball once and it landed under that tree right there, and I started to climb the fence, and I got my pants caught. And I started crying. And this girl came down out of the tree and brought the ball back and unhooked me from the fence. And then she disappeared."
"Yeah, right," said Charlotte, mashing down the uneasiness in her stomach. "What did she look like?"
"She had brown hair in a ponytail, and her dress was red, white, and blue stripes."
"I bet she was a regular girl."
"Then how did she disappear?"
"This is the biggest load of bull I ever heard," declared Charlotte loudly. "There's no such things as ghosts!"
"That's what Ms. Gonzalez said, the last lady that lived here," said Shannon, unfazed. "She took a year lease and left after six months. She had a baby, and he kept playing with somebody that wasn't there, and one day she found him hovering over his crib. Just floating in the air. So they packed up and left."
Shannon lowered her voice and leaned over the fence. "Last Fourth of July, the house was empty. But I was lighting sparklers, and I looked over here, and I saw lights in the windows of the bedrooms." She pointed. The three bedrooms lined up, back to front, on the side of the house closest to Shannon's yard.
"Kids with flashlights," suggested Charlotte.
Shannon shook her head. "They were a funny kind of greenish light, and they bobbed around at the tops of the windows."
"You should have called the police," said Charlotte. "That's what I'd do. It was probably vandals."
Shannon didn't appear to be listening. "So-I figured-ghosts can't get you on the Fourth of July, right? That's the most unscariest holiday in the world. So I went up to the front window of that bedroom that looks onto the street."
"That's my bedroom," Charlotte informed her.
"Ooh, cool," said Shannon, "except I could never sleep there after what I saw."
"You didn't see a thing."
"I went right up to the window and put my face next to the glass," said Shannon, "and there was this light, bobbing around. Not a solid light, but like a shower of sparks, only they never went out. And suddenly it stopped and swooped right down at me; I mean straight at my face! And before I could back off, it came through the window and right through me! And it was cold! Like as if somebody spilled a bunch of ice water all over my molecules-inside ones, too! I was shivering and had goose pimples all up and down my legs, and it was still ninety degrees outside. So I know there's a ghost."
Charlotte opened her mouth to pour scorn on this story, and jumped as something thumped against her back. She whirled, her heart thumping. Brandon waved both hands at her. "Come play!" He smiled so sweetly it was impossible to be mad at him. Sock Monkey lay in a heap at her feet.
"Hey, he's got a great pitch," said Shannon.
"Yeah, Bart says he's going to be a baseball player," said Charlotte, picking up Sock Monkey. "I need to play with him now, or he'll get all whiny." Besides, if she played with Brandon, she wouldn't have to listen to Shannon's lies. They had to be lies. She took a step closer to the playpen, away from the fence.
But Shannon didn't take the hint. "Do you get paid to baby-sit?"
"No. Why should I? Mom didn't get paid to look after me."
"Mom says mothers should be paid because it's such an important job, and Dad says they should be paid not to have kids because of overpopulation. That's why I'm here, but I don't have any brothers and sisters, to satisfy both of them." She peered over the fence at Brandon, who waved the ring-stack puzzle by the base, scattering plastic doughnuts. "He's cute, in an obnoxious sort of way."
"Lottie play!" Brandon commanded.
"Want to help?" asked Charlotte, trapped.
"Okay," said Shannon, passing her cup over the fence and inserting one skinny bare foot into the chain link to hoist herself over. "But I don't know how much good I'll be."
At least Shannon would be company. "Nothing to it," Charlotte assured her. "Just let him boss you around, and you'll be fine."