A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The story explains that bone china is made with bones. The children head to the library to look for maps and end up finding a wealth of information about the doll and its maker.
The three friends are worried about the ways they're changing as they stumble toward adolescence. They don't want to rush to grow up, and they don't want to risk their friendship. Beneath the arguing, they're loyal to each other -- and committed to helping the little girl's ghost, even when they aren't sure whether she's real or a figment of Poppy's imagination.
Positive Role Models
Even as they squabble and hide secrets from each other, the three friends show great caring and empathy for one another. The kids make questionable choices in pursuit of their quest: sneaking away from home, breaking into a building, and stealing bikes and a boat. But they do plan to return the bikes, and they call the marina to report where the boat can be found. The adults respond to the children's actions with a surprising degree of compassion -- Zach's father even apologizes for his overbearing behavior. A librarian who finds them insists on contacting their parents.
Violence & Scariness
The ghost story centers on the possible murder of a young girl, whose father then used her remains to make a bone china doll. A strange, leering man on the bus frightens the children, though he doesn't explicitly threaten them. As the friends sleep, their campsite is violently trashed -- but it isn’t clear who (or what) did it.
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Products & Purchases
Passing reference to a Roomba and Twizzlers.
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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.