The cover of Holly Black’s Doll Bones might give readers the idea that something creepy, yet childish, awaits as they turn the pages. And that would be only partially true–there is a ghost, and she is very creepy, but it’s the three long-time friends who form the real heart of the story which took second place as the 2014 Newberry Honor book.
Alice, Zach and Poppy are far-from-perfect middle schoolers. Besides the changes that hormones bring, each carries burdens most readers will identify with: Alice, an orphan, lives with a rigidly strict grandmother and misses her parents; Zach, a budding basketball player, is adjusting–with difficulty–to having his father back in his life. Poppy, a scrappy 12-year-old and the “center” of the trio, deals with difficult siblings and mostly absent parents.
A vivid imagination and a set of beloved action figures binds the three together as they create adventurous story lines and plays–despite constant teasing from friends and family. After Poppy’s mother finds an old-fashioned bone-china doll at a yard sale that she believes is worth money and forbids the kids to touch, the friends add her into their game as “the Queen” who is kept locked away from her subjects.
Zach is the character we come to know best, and we know that he finds “the Queen” disturbing. He tells himself that she is only a doll, yet could swear that sometimes her eyes are open–and sometimes they’re not. When Poppy begs him to join her and Alice on a mission involving what she believes is the ghost of the doll, he reluctantly agrees feeling he owes his friends that much even though he seriously doubts that what Poppy has said she’s dreamed about is true. As everything that could go wrong does, and it’s looking more and more as if Poppy could be right about the Queen, Zach learns important lessons about his real-life, flesh and blood friends and family members. And a lot about the ghost, too.
Located in: Scary.
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