by Holly Black
I would recommend for strong 4th grade reader and up. But it is scary!
In first grade I had an obsession with Dare Wright's The Lonely Doll, which I knew was usually found right above the "W" shelf marker in my school library. I checked this book out so much that I was told by the school librarian that I wasn't allowed to have it anymore and that I needed to find other things to read.
So I picked up Holly Black's Doll Bones with great curiosity. I am not a fan of horror, or a huge fantasy buff, but I do love a good ghost story.
The bones in question belong to the doll queen, the ruler of the imaginary kingdom that Poppy, Zack and Alice created and continue to act out with discarded Barbies and thrift store finds. Their imaginary world is multifaceted and has been developed over years of play. The Queen rules over this world from Poppy's mother's china cabinet- and they are forbidden to touch her or take her from the glass case.
When Zack's father suddenly reappears, he determines that Zack would be better off shooting hoops with the guys then playing dolls with girls and throws away Zack's beloved action figures who act as the main characters in most of the storylines for the game. Devastated and ashamed, Zach would rather lead Alice and Poppy to believe that he is no longer interested in their game than admit the truth.
In an effort to tempt Zack back to the story for at least a grand finale, Poppy takes the Doll Queen from the shelf and here the trouble begins.
Poppy begins to have strange dreams about the doll and odd things begin to happen. Things disappear and reappear in odd places. After some minimal library research (love it) on the doll manufacturer, Poppy explains to the others that the doll maker's daughter died in 1912 and her body was never discovered. Poppy convinces them that the doll contains the ashes of this dead girl and strange things will continue to happen to them, unless they can properly bury her in the family plot in the next state.
Is the doll really haunted? Or has Poppy created a real life action adventure game for her friends to act out in a desperate attempt to keep their game going?
This is one creepy, scary story. I will never look at a china doll the same way again. And this is not just a ghost story. It's about dealing with your family- Zack's constantly disappointed by his dad who is in and out of his life and Poppy's parents are struggling with money and virtually absentee while Alice's grandmother is overbearing and barely let's Alice out of her sight.
And at its heart, this is a story about the cyclical life of friendships; the dull ache of being on the cusp of adulthood and saying good-bye to childhood with the knowledge that it may also mean growing away from those you love best.