Thursday, December 12, 2013

doll bones

doll bones
holly black
simon & schuster
published 2013

Zach, Poppy & Alice have been friends forever.  And for almost as long, they've been playing one continuous, ever-changing game - a game that takes place in a world populated with pirates and thieves, mermaids and warriors.  Ruling over them all is the Great Queen, a bone-china doll imprisoned in a cabinet, cursing those who displease her.

But the three friends are in middle school now, and Zach's father is pushing him to give up make-believe for basketball/  When his father gives him no choice, Zach quits the game and lies about the reason.  It seems like their friendship might be over, until Poppy declares she's been having dreams about the Queen - and the ghost of a girl who will not rest until the bone-china doll is buried in her empty grave.

And so Zach and Alice and Poppy set off on one last adventure to lay the Queen's ghost to rest.  But nothing goes according to plan, and as their adventure turns into an epic journey, creepy things begin to happen.  Is the doll just a doll, or is there something more sinister at work?  Has Poppy been telling the truth, or is she tricking them into playing a new game?  And if there really is a ghost, will it let them go now that it has them in its clutches?

This is very squarely a middle grades book.  It is creepy without being too creepy, grisly without being too grisly and it had heart and hope and friendship too.  Hurrah!

Never does Black confirm anything.  Nothing is ever overtly 'magic' or proven.  It could be overactive imaginations of three 11 year old kids or it could be that the doll harbored a honest to goodness ghost.  But what the story does do is offer that little slice of hope.  Imagination is the greatest gift we have to give and the richest we are with this gift is when we are children.  Then as we begin to grow older having an imagination and using it becomes something we outgrow.  But here while they may be growing up and outgrowing toys, they are not giving up their imaginations.

I think this is just on the borderline of too-scary-for-my-7-year-old.  She's read the first 5 Harry Potter books and done great, but this book has just enough creepy in it to possibly get her freaked out.  Maybe a couple more years and we'll be ready for some Holly Black.

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