Newbery Honor winning Doll Bones, written by Holly Black, is one of the finest action/adventure/ghost stories for the younger set ever written. In it, twelve-year-old, well-rounded, basketball-playing Zach Barlow and his close friends Poppy and Alice engage in great imaginative games of devilment and intrigue, games that his absentee father interprets as childish and immature.
“Someone’s got to get you ready for the real world,” states his father. “Be mad all you want…End of discussion (27-9).”
The real world becomes paranormal when Eleanor, the spirit of dead girl, comes to Poppy in a dream. Eleanor tells Poppy that her cremated bones are stored inside the toddler-sized china doll encased in a cabinet in her home. Zach, Poppy, and Alice refer to the creepy-looking doll as The Queen. In the dream, Eleanor tells Poppy that she had to bury her bones – or else…
“She said she couldn’t rest until her bones were in her own grave,” Poppy tells Zach and Alice. “…and if I didn’t help her, she would make me sorry (62-3).”
And Eleanor keeps her promise to make them sorry, hauntingly so. There begins the adventurously eerie quest across the state of Ohio to lay Eleanor’s doll bones to rest, a quest in which the trio finds not only a ghost’s grave, but the meaning of tried and true friendship.
“Quests are supposed to change us,” Zach said.
“How about real life?” asked Poppy.
“This was real,” states Alice. “This was a story we lived. Maybe we can live other stories too (243).”