Holly Black is a master storyteller with the Spiderwick Chronicles and several other popular series for teens and children. Her newest release “Doll Bones” is a spooky tale about a possessed doll and 3 children who must return her to her grave. This book keeps popping up on different lists as a popular tween book. After hearing about it again at the MLA conference I decided to give it a try. The publisher recommends this title to ages 10-14 and is 244 pages long.
Poppy, Zach, and Alice love to have grand adventures with their action figures and dolls. They have been playing an evolving game with them forever. It doesn’t matter to them that they are at an age where playing with dolls is considered babyish. All that matters is their friendship, adventures, and pleasing the Great Queen doll who lives in the china cabinet. One fateful day everything changes for Zach when his Dad ruins the game. Nothing will ever be the same. As Zach withdraws from his friends, a new mystery begins when Poppy releases the Queen from her cabinet. All of a sudden the 3 friends are thrust into a quest that will challenge their friendship and could ruin their lives. Is the creepy Queen doll really made out of a dead girls bones? Is she trying to get them all killed? Will anything ever be the same?
Find out in this twisty tale of mystery, friendship and possible murder!
This book was more than just a ghost story. It more about the power of friendship and how we change as we get older. Poppy, Zach, and Alice all have hardships that they are facing in their personal lives. Poppy has parents who are overworked and too busy for her. Zach has a complicated relationship with his Dad, and Alice is alone with her aging Grandmother who has crazy rules. Each character has been developed very well and I think many of my students will be able to identify with their struggles. The author did a great job of creating a realistic world for these middle grade kids that has lots of the trials and tribulations that tweens often deal with.
I have always been slightly creeped out by porcelain/china dolls. Especially the ones with the eyes that open and close. The Queen is no exception. She is an old doll with a faded dress and eyes that don’t really open or close right. Black does a good job making her seem sinister and evil without making her too scary. I have noticed that dolls are often the main characters in scary books for kids so I am not alone in thinking that they are extra creepy! This one might even be made of the bones of a dead child who is desperate to get back to her grave…yikes! While the story is very scary at times (the doll often seems to come to life) it is not gory or over the top. The murder is only hinted at and there are no scenes of blood and guts. I can see my 3rd and 4th grade students liking this book. I also won’t have to worry about parents thinking it is too scary.
There is a extra tiny bit of romance between the characters but you really have to squint to see it. It really does not add or detract from the story and there is nothing inappropriate going on. I really liked that this part was touched on but not the main part of the story. The rest of the story shows how hard growing up can be when you are still a kid and not yet a teen. That is what resonated most with me and I think that readers will identify with this the most. It has enough scary and enough heart to keep you reading to the very last page.
4 out of 5 stars and a definite purchase for our children’s library!
Other books you might like that are similar to this one:
Dollhouse Murders– Betty Ren Wright (Ages 10 and up)
Doll in the Garden– Mary Downing Hahn (Ages 10 and up)
Bad girls don’t die– Katie Alender (Ages 12 and up)