Sunday, August 11, 2013

Doll Bones by Holly Black

How many of you liked (or perhaps still like) to play with action figures?  What were some of your favorites?  Zach has played with Poppy and Alice for years.  They have the most fun using action figures and dolls to make up elaborate stories – stories that last for days.  All three love the stories, but now that they are twelve, Zach’s father feels that Zach needs to give up his toys before other kids find out and make fun of him.  So without telling Zach, he throws away all of the toys he feels Zach is too old for.  Zach is devastated, and he’s furious with his dad.  But he cannot bring himself to tell the girls the truth, so he just tells them he just wants to stop playing.
            Poppy, in particular, is devastated.  But then a couple of nights later, the girls wake him up in the middle of the night.  Poppy then pulls out the Queen, the one doll they had never been allowed to play with because it was her mother’s and was supposedly valuable. Poppy tells Zach that the Queen had spoken to her in a dream. According the Queen, they need to bury the doll in the town of East Liverpool, Ohio – a few hours away by bus.  As crazy as it seems, the three gather what money they have and set off for East Liverpool to bury the Queen once and for all.
            Doll Bones has been mentioned by numerous people as a contender for the Newbery, and I certainly understand why.  It is very much an adventure, but more importantly, it is a story about growing up.  Holly Black’s writing is beautiful.  For the first time in a while, I found myself jotting down page numbers of passages that I really liked. It’s also going to be a kid-friendly book.  Unlike The Center of Everything, it will be an easy sell to my students.  In the long run, however, I think The Center of Everything is a stronger contender.  The problem I had was in suspending disbelief on the actions of one of the characters.  Without risking too many spoilers, Black has Alice doing and saying a couple of things that I just don’t see in her doing.  That doesn’t mean that it’s not a great book, or that I’m not going to booktalk the heck out of it.  It just means that it gets four stars from me instead of five.

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