Vivian Vande Velde Main Page
There's a Dead Person Following My Sister Around
Ages: 10 & up
Publisher: Harcourt
Book Description:

A funny, frightening tale about three modern children who are haunted--literally--by the ghosts of slavery. 

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Where do you GET those ideas?
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"A fast-paced story that mixes scares and history for some can't-put-it-down fun." -- Kirkus Reviews


  • IRA Young Adult's Choice
  • (Maryland) Black-Eyed Susan Award (2002)

Where do you GET those ideas?

This book started with the setting.  Our house is not the house described in the story, but our yard is.  (That is, we have a big ditch running behind us, part of the old Erie Canal system.)  I wanted to use that in one of my stories.  Some of the old houses in the Rochester area have secret rooms that were used during the time of the underground railroad, so I was interested in that, too.  As Ted says in the first chapter, many ghost stories start with people moving into a spooky old house; I wanted to do something different, and so I decided that the family would have lived in the same house for generations, so they wouldn't be scared of the house.  But then I had to come up with a reason why a ghost would start haunting these particular kids at this particular time.


Zach clicked the channel buton. "What did you do to the TV?"

The screen was all staticky, the way it looks when you put in a blank videotape. He clicked the VCR button on, then off again.

"Maybe the cable's out," I suggested.

Zach switched to the regular stations and flipped through them. Still a lot of static, but now there was definitely something in the middle. "I'd swear it looks like a person," he said. "But why the same thing on all channels?"

"Zach, turn it off," I said.

Over his shoulder I could see the person on the TV coming in clearer every second, walking toward us through the field of static, a dark silhouette in a long gown and bonnet.

"Zach, turn off the TV," I said.

Jackie took the remote control out of Zach's hand and turned off the power.

Zach opened his mouth to protest but didn't say a word. The screen stayed the same: black and white static with someone coming straight toward us.

With Marella's mother coming straight toward us.



Till her face filled the screen...

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Black-Eyed Susan Award, chosen by the readers of Maryland (grades 6 - 9):  2001/2002


Other covers by Tristan Elwell:


To see more of Tristan Elwell's work, visit his website.


Original paperback edition by Puffin Books (an mprint of Penguin Putnam)


If you're interested in reading more about the underground railroad, you can visit the site of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.


The Indonesian version of There's A Dead Person...