7.11.2013

DOLL BONES by Holly Black (ill. by Eliza Wheeler)


There are those who have no problem with dolls. And then there are those of us who find them creepy creepy CREEPY. Especially the old-fashioned dolls. I’m not talking about Raggedy Ann here. I’m talking about the dolls with glassy, staring eyes that may or may not hold a spark of evil consciousness, with frozen hands that could move AT ANY INSTANT and grab you by the throat, and with a smile, oh that smile, so coy and careful to hide the truth.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Rockstar YA author Libba Bray (THE DIVINERS) also senses the evil within these supposed playthings.

I couldn’t help but wonder as I read Holly Black’s recent middle grade book DOLL BONES (Margaret K. McElderry Books May, 2013) if her friend Libba inspired the idea. And whether Libba agreed to read it.

Black, who also writes YA, may be best known to this younger audience as the co-creator of the Spiderwick Chronicles (along with Tony DiTerlizzi). Here, Black takes us on a gothic, ghostly mystery firmly set in the real world.

Three friends — Zach, Poppy and Alice — continue to play their long-running imagination game of pirates, mermaids and kingdoms even though they’re in middle school now and really too old for that kind of thing. But when Zach’s formerly absent father decides to take matters into his own hands, in an effort to force his son to “grow up,” Zach thinks the game is over for good.

However, the girls are not so quick to walk away from the years they’ve invested building the game’s backstory. In the midst of this friendship upheaval, Poppy tells them that the china doll they’ve dubbed The Queen may be more than just a doll. The ghost of a possibly murdered girl is visiting Poppy in her dreams: a girl whose body was never found. A girl who cannot rest until The Queen is buried in her grave.

The three set off on a quest to do just that, discovering more about the dead girl’s story, and The Queen, than they might want to know. Could The Queen be the cause of everything that goes wrong on this harrowing adventure? And will the quest be the final blow that destroys their friendship — or what brings them together?

I totally connected with the imagination games the kids played, having done much the same thing with chess pieces and miniature figures in my own childhood. The joy the three find creating their story game, and the connection this forges not only between them but to their innocence, weaves a wonderfully tandem thread as the quest unspools.

Peppered with Eliza Wheeler’s just-as-creepy-as-the-story illustrations, DOLL BONES’ pages turn quickly for a fantastic, goosebumpy read that will dispel sweltering summer doldrums and have fans ready for the crisp, haunting winds of autumn.




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