Doll Bones

Doll Bones

Book - 2013 | 1st ed. --
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Zach, Alice, and Poppy, friends from a Pennsylvania middle school who have long enjoyed acting out imaginary adventures with dolls and action figures, embark on a real-life quest to Ohio to bury a doll made from the ashes of a dead girl.
Publisher: New York ; Toronto : Simon & Schuster Children's Pub., c2013.
Edition: 1st ed. --
ISBN: 9781416963981
Characteristics: 244 p. : ill.
Additional Contributors: Wheeler, Eliza


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Apr 04, 2020

Zach, Poppy, and Alice have always enjoyed acting out their stories of swashbuckling pirates and magical lands, but as they enter middle school, they find themselves starting to grow apart. Then, in an effort to make his son grow up, Zach's absentee father throws away all of the action figures they use to act out their stories and the game comes to a screeching halt.

For some reason, Zach decides not to tell his two best friends what happened and instead decides to act like an insufferable jerk to them (I will come back to that in a minute) and they begin to resent him. To try and keep the game going, Poppy takes "The Queen" (an old porcelain doll) out of the cabinet and becomes convinced that the doll is haunted by a young girl's spirit. The spirit wants to be put to rest in the next state over. But is Poppy lying? Or is the doll possessing her in some way? Regardless, the three friends begin the quest to bring the doll to her final resting place.

I found this story "just okay" I enjoyed the ambiguity over the existence of the ghost. All of the supernatural occurrences can be explained away and there are several points where Alice does just that.

My biggest point of contention is with Zach. His behavior is the catalyst for the entire story, but I found his story a little weak. His reason for not telling his friends what happened to the action figures doesn't really make any sense and he just comes across as unlikable. Since the story is told from his point of view, this was a big problem for me. I would've much rather read the story told from Alice's point of view, or even Poppy's--I feel they are much more interesting and likable characters than Zach.

Nov 16, 2019

One of the best books scary love it👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻🙀🙀🙀🙀😺😺😺😺😺😺😺😺

KHCPL_Wagner Oct 15, 2019

This juvenile horror novel features a creepy doll.

IndyPL_SteveB Jul 20, 2019

Award-winning and compelling ghost story for older children; but also a story about friendship and the difficult age of 12. Zach, Poppy, and Alice have an imagination game going. They use dolls and action figures for an ongoing saga of adventure and creativity. But one day, Zach’s dad tells Zach it is time to grow up and he throws out all of the action figures. In frustration, Poppy gets Alice and Zach to go along with her on a night time adventure – take a bus across Pennsylvania to East Liverpool, Ohio to bury a doll. Poppy has been having dreams in which the ghost of a long dead girl tells of how she died and how her bones were used for this peculiar bone china doll. Zach and Alice go along to placate Poppy but they don’t believe in the ghost – until scary things begin happening.

The ghost story is secondary to the changing relationships between the three children, as each one finds a skill that is important to their mission. Of course, they have to avoid “helpful” adults who think they are runaways or troublemakers and when they are forced to leave the bus a couple of stops early to get away from a creepy old guy, they have to face a lot more challenges, including how to cross the Ohio River.

LPL_SarahM Feb 16, 2018

A coming-of-age, adventure, ghost story. Lots of fun.

May 20, 2017

This book is very interesting as the story goes on. I think this book will be good for kids going on to more intense mystery books or young adult.

Feb 07, 2017

Doll Bones by Holly Black is a nail-biting and heart racing tale of three friends who face what all children eventually do: growing up. Alice, Zach, and Poppy have been playing the same game for as long as they can remember. Filled with adventures and quests, their toys and action figures all worship the ominous Great Queen – a bone china doll stored in a cabinet in Poppy’s house. When Zach’s father decides that dolls are no longer appropriate for his son, he throws them away, leaving Zach confused, lost, and angry at his friends who still have their toys. But when Poppy suddenly has dreams sent from the Great Queen, she convinces Alice and Zach to join in on one last quest – to bury the bone china doll in the grave that she never knew.

Doll Bones is filled with the creeps and the crawlies, weaving around the age-old tale of growing-up with a darker ghost story, children who like scary stories will develop their taste for thrillers, mysteries and horror.

KC Rating: 5/5
Reading from an adult perspective, all middle school books seem to go by fast. However, taking into account the speed with which the days and scenes pass by, and the secrets and mysteries unfold, this book is relatively fast-paced, with a compelling plot-line that builds the further you read and wraps up with a quick and neat conclusion.

Zach, Poppy and Alice all look and act different. Their diverse backgrounds and family histories are woven into the novel so finely that a reader barely notices the added information, yet it fills the character’s stories with life and colour. With controlling grandmothers, estranged fathers, and absent, workaholic parents, the children’s personalities change shape as they journey through their quest and learn who they really are. The amount of character development in a book for middle school readers is very appropriate to the skill level, allowing room for the readers to continue on into more complex and mysterious plot lines in the future.

Black’s signature dark and creepy undertone is evident in Doll Bones, yet it is scaled down to the appropriate age. The prose is easy and conversational, and children and parents alike will follow this familiar story of growing up, friendship, and believing in the unseen.

ArapahoeLesley Nov 17, 2016

A cute adventure story for the kid bridging junior and YA.

PimaLib_SierraG May 24, 2016

Great story for you to share with your kids and equally pleasant to sneak away with after the kids have gone to bed. Story revolves around Zach, Alice and Poppy going on a risky adventure to lay to rest the spirit of an ivory doll they call the "Queen" who Poppy is convinced is made of human-bone china. The narration leaves it up to the reader on whether they want to believe Poppy's story that the Queen truly is possessed. Great lessons about being yourself despite peer pressure. Recommend for all ages.

Dec 13, 2015

I read this book because it was on my niece's summer reading list. She of course didn't finish reading it, but I did and found it imaginative, and motivating with some life lessons mixed in. I wish she had really read it because it would have spurred some good discussions between us.

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Age Suitability

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Nov 16, 2019

kawaiicouchpotato thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

PimaLib_SierraG May 24, 2016

PimaLib_SierraG thinks this title is suitable for All Ages

Aug 08, 2014

ririshres2 thinks this title is suitable for 8 years and over

Red_Cobra_111 Jul 03, 2014

Red_Cobra_111 thinks this title is suitable for 9 years and over

Violet_Jellyfish_30 Jun 19, 2014

Violet_Jellyfish_30 thinks this title is suitable for 7 years and over

Feb 09, 2014

blue_bird_1230 thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

Sep 27, 2013

Orange_Fox_1 thinks this title is suitable for 11 years and over


ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 9 and 12


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Nov 16, 2019

“The dead can toy with you”!

blue_jellyfish_93 Jul 15, 2014

''Everything froze for a long moment. The Queen hit the waves with barely a splash, the water seemed to soak her dress in slow motion, drawing it down''.

blue_jellyfish_93 Jul 15, 2014

''Zach didn't think about it. He dove''.

JCLChrisK Jan 07, 2014

But Zach wanted [ghosts] to be real, wanted that desperately.

If they were real, then maybe the world was big enough to have magic in it. And if there was magic--even bad magic, and Zach knew it was more likely that there was bad magic than any good kind--then maybe not everyone had to have a story like his father's, a story like the kind all the adults he knew told, one about giving up and growing bitter. He might have been embarrassed to wish for magic back home, but there in the woods, it seemed possible. He looked over at the cruel, glassy eyes of the doll, so close that she could have touched his face.

Anything was better than no magic at all.


“He wondered whether growing up was learning that most stories turned out to be lies.”


“I hate that you’re going to leave me behind. I hate that everyone calls it growing up, but it seems like dying. It feels like each of you is being possessed and I’m next.”


“Before Lady Jaye, Alice’s favorite character had been a Barbie named Aurora who had been raised by a herd of carnivorous horses.”


Add a Summary
Nov 16, 2019

To sum up this book it was crazy,fun,adventurous,extreme,scary and thrilling.My fav part was when he opened the ash and bones sack that was inside the doll.Its a great story to relax to.Its like a horror movie playing in your mind.

blue_jellyfish_93 Jul 15, 2014

Creepy dolls? A wild adventure? A broken friendship? Try out this book! Doll Bones is a real chiller! Three kids on a mission to fix their friendship and a crime that happened years ago.
A haunted tale about Zach, Poppy, and Alice in a tree full of twisted branches. How will these kids reach their destination?
On a bus with alien-faced bus drivers? By hijacking a boat and almost drowning all that they came for? Breaking into a library for a map?
This book has it all!


By and large middle schoolers do not play with dolls. But Zach, Poppy and Alice have been playing “the game” for years and it’s only gotten better with time. Using dolls of every type they spin wild tales and live out personalities different from their own. That is, until Zach’s dad throws out his toys in an effort to stop the game. Ashamed, Zach lies to his friends that he no longer wants to play. This act leads to unforeseen consequences when, in desperation, Poppy releases a bone china doll from her mother’s cabinet, only to find herself haunted by the ghost of a long dead girl. Inside the doll are ashes and if any of the three is to get any peace they will have to bury the doll in a specific grave. If they succeed they’ll have fulfilled their quest. If they fail? They may suffer worse than a ghost’s wrath. They might be . . . ordinary.


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