Title: Doll Bones
Author: Holly Black
Published: May 2013
Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice. But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity . . .
My Thoughts: This book is a perfectly creepy story. It is just creepy enough to be one that middle grade kids would enjoy without being too scary. I love the way the author captured Zach's confusion about what was happening with his friends. The way all three of these kids were careful about letting anyone know about the playing with action figures that they did is so true to life. I think many middle school students would be able to connect to this...even if they would never admit that they do something similar. It is such an awkward age and Holly Black really captured that well. The idea of a ghost residing in an old doll is just plain creepy. It is a great ghost story and I know my middle school students will enjoy the suspense. I also loved the way the three friends set out on a true adventure and learned a little bit about what is important in their lives.
While I was reading, my teacher brain was planning how I would use this book in my classroom. I thought it would be an excellent read aloud because the creepy story would appeal to a broad audience. I then thought I would probably pair the book with a viewing of the short film "Alma."
After viewing the film, I would ask students to come up with a story about the dolls in the store. Having read Doll Bones beforehand, I can imagine that many students would pull on the storyline a little bit for their own writing. This would make the book into a mentor text of sorts.
Showing this short film and having the students blog their reactions, or a story triggered from their viewing, was one of my favorite lessons in writing last year. Many of my students also named this as one of their favorite activities. Reading Doll Bones before doing this will only enhance the experience.
I also think this book would pair well with The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson. In that book the dolls are not as creepy, but we get to hear what they are thinking.
I highly recommend Doll Bones by Holly Black.
4 out of 5 stars.