Posted in Elementary Fiction, Fantasy/Science Fiction, Module 5

Module 5: Doll Bones

Title: Doll Bones

Author: Holly Black

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6398-1

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books


Poppy and her friends love to write adventure stories and role play with their dolls. One day, Zach’s dad decides that he is too old to be playing with dolls, and throws all of Zach’s figures away. Instead of telling Poppy, Zach claims that he no longer wants to play the game. Poppy is crushed and angry, and begs Zach to play one last time. That night, Poppy dreams that her mother’s antique porcelain doll tells visits her in her sleep and begs her for help. She claims that the doll is made of a young girl’s bones, and her spirit cannot rest until her bones are buried in the cemetery with her family. Poppy begs her friends to help her lay the doll’s bones to rest, and the three friends embark on an adventure to discover the identity of the spirit. They soon discover the story of a girl who was said to have been murdered by her uncle. The three friends uncover the mystery behind the murder, and find the cemetery where the spirit wants to be buried. They bury the doll’s bones where they belong, and continue home to resume their lives.

Black, H. (2013). Doll bones. United States: Margaret K. McElderry Books.

My Impressions:

This is a unique story that most middle grade readers will enjoy. It’s not my favorite of Holly Black’s books, but the characters are dynamic, and they deal with their problems in very believable ways. For example, Zach’s reaction to his father throwing away his action figures is completely believable of a boy his age. So is Poppy’s reaction to Zach’s withdrawal from the game. Furthermore, the plot is interesting and flows smoothly from event to event. There do not seem to be any plot elements that are left untied. The ghost story is compelling, and leaves the reader guessing until the climax of the story. The ending of the story leaves the reader wondering if there ever really was a ghost, or can the events of the story be chalked up to a little girl’s over active imagination.  It isn’t overly scary, so even readers who shy away from ghost stories will likely enjoy this title. Overall, I would recommend this title to readers looking for a good ghost story, but not an epic scare.

For Use in the Library:

This book has a rather compelling cover, and would work great as a book to put on display on a Halloween reads shelf. It will draw readers toward the display, and likely cause them to spend some time perusing the other titles on the shelf as well.


Gr 4-7–At 12 years old, lifelong friends Zach, Poppy, and Alice are ferociously clinging to their childhoods. Using old Barbies, pirate action figures, dolls from Good Will, and their imaginations, they have created an exciting world of characters in an elaborate game. Figuring heavily in their plotline is the Queen, an antique doll ofbone china that belongs to Poppy’s mother and is strictly off-limits to the kids. She’s also incredibly creepy. When Zach’s dad throws away his action figures, the boy is so devastated that he ends the game abruptly, leaving the girls hurt and confused. Shortly thereafter, Poppy reveals that the Queen is made of the bones of a dead girl named Eleanor who has been communicating with her at night. The doll appears to be filled with Eleanor’s ashes, and she has promised Poppy that she will make their lives miserable if they don’t journey to Ohio, find her grave, and bury her properly. After much persuading, Zach and Alice agree to the journey. The Queen gets scarier and scarier as unexplained events begin to occur along the way. Black has created protagonists who readers will care about, and amusing secondary characters, like a pink-haired librarian and a crazy bus passenger who seems to be able to see Eleanor. This novel is a chilling ghost story, a gripping adventure, and a heartwarming look at the often-painful pull of adulthood. Black-and-white illustrations actually tone down the scare factor a little, making this a perfect starter story for budding horror fans.

Laferriere, M. (2013). [Review of the book Doll bones, by H. Black]. School Library Journal, 59(6), 112. Retrieved from