A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Doll Bones scores high on the creepiness scale but isn't actually that violent. It's spooky, the kind of story where it isn't always clear what might be truly supernatural -- or simply the product of an overactive imagination. The most frightening scene may be one involving an unbalanced and aggressively chatty stranger on the bus. The story centers on the mysterious death of a girl long ago, but the real thrust of the novel is how the three main characters struggle to navigate the changes of early adolescence. All three tweens are coping with difficult family backgrounds, and one child lost her parents in an accident. They leave on an overnight journey without alerting their parents.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Now that he's 12, Zach is being pushed by his dad to abandon action figures and the long-running, imaginative storytelling game he plays with his friends, Poppy and Alice. Since they were very young, they've been telling tales of pirates, mermaids, and the Great Queen, an antique bone china doll locked in a glass cabinet. But when Zach quits the game, Poppy claims she's been having dreams that the Great Queen is tied to the ghost of a young girl, who she says she'll haunt them until they bury the doll in her proper grave. Zach sets off with his friends on this final quest, though he's uncertain whether the ghost story is real or a desperate bid by Poppy to keep the game -- and their friendship -- alive.
Is it any good?
DOLL BONES is just spooky enough to bewitch kids who love spine-tingling tales without violence or gore. But the real treasure lies beneath: Author Holly Black artfully hones in on a bittersweet turning point of childhood -- that strange time when you leave freewheeling pretend play behind for more mature pursuits, like sports and dating. "I hate that everyone calls it growing up, but it seems like dying," laments Poppy, who's starting to feel like the third wheel as Zach and Alice awkwardly deal with the first stirrings of romantic feelings.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the use of horror in a friendship tale. Why are horror stories so appealing? Would a story about these friends be as interesting without the supernatural element?
The kids steal a boat and some bikes and break into a library in pursuit of their goal. Do the ends justify the means?
Zach wonders whether the doll is somehow possessing them. Later, Poppy says seeing her friends change is like seeing them become possessed. How is the doll used as symbol for what's happening among the trio of friends?
- Author: Holly Black
- Illustrator: Eliza Wheeler
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
- Publication date: May 7, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 256
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Awards: ALA Best and Notable Books, Newbery Medal and Honors
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love spooky stuff
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.