horror

Doll Bones

Jacket• Grade Range: 5th-8th
• Mystery/Coming of age
• Author: Holly Black and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
• Title: Doll Bones
• Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
• 2013
• 247 pages.
• ISBN: 9781416963981
• Awards: Newbery Honor, Carnegie medal in literature nominee
• Author’s website: http://blackholly.com/

 

Zach, Alice and Poppy have been friends for years. Their imaginary adventure game has evolved as each kid contributes plot and action ideas and creates their doll or action figure’s roles. As they enter adolescence all three are aware of the strains conformist expectations place on their unconventional cross-gender friendship and make-believe play, but it is only when Zachary’s father inserts himself into the game that a rift is created. Poppy’s effort to mount one last adventure leads the three into an ambitious and eerie quest to lay to rest a troubled spirit trapped inside a spooky, and possibly malevolent, bone china doll.

We have a joke in our library, especially when weeding, that ‘destined to be a classic’ means ‘never will be read.’ Doll Bones with its strong writing, appealing characters and astute feel for the pain and anger engendered by letting go of childhood, may be the exception that proves the rule. Like all great thrillers it magnifies the psychological pull of ordinary feelings and exposes just what we hope never to openly acknowledge. Zach’s growth, sports prowess and meddling dad push him unwillingly into tweendom. His impotent anger at being forced to let go of something that still matters to him causes him to imitate the dad whose behavior he so despises; he buries his feelings and flees, convincing himself that “growing up means most stories turn out to be lies.” The friends’ struggle-to keep some honesty alive in their relationship, combined with the ghost doll’s creepy influence, push Zach, Alice and Poppy past childlike dependence into an awareness of the freedom that comes from taking responsibility for their beliefs.

While many reviews and most trailers, including mine, focus on the spooky elements, the book’s strength and heart are really about friendship and growing up. This is a smart, timeless story.

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Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein

Jacket-4• Grade Range: 6th-adult
• Horror/Graphic Novel
• Author: Mary Shelley-edited and illustrated by Gris Grimly
• Title: Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein
• Publisher: Balzar + Bray
• 2013
• 208 pages.
• ISBN: 978-0061862977
• Awards: None known.
• Author’s website & blogs: http://www.madcreator.com http://grisgrimlysfrankenstein.blogspot.com/ http://grisgrimly.blogspot.com/

 

 

A philosopher’s stone, an elixir of life, visions of immortality and power: Victor Frankenstein had wildly unrealistic dreams. When studying at University he acquires the tools to penetrate the mysteries of the human body and becomes obsessed. Toiling among the unhallowed damps of the grave he attempts to create a living being: a filthy creation spawned by the charnel house and the dissecting room. His success plunges him into a nightmare of sublime torment and tragedy he struggles to escape.

Gris Grimly’s witty, dark, romantic, illustrations create a gateway into Marry Shelley’s odd tale, which she wrote at eighteen, on a bet, almost two hundred years ago. Grimly has always felt that monster fans are divided into two teams: Team Dracula and Team Frankenstein. Grimly, rebellious and misunderstood has always been on Team Frankenstein.

The ink and watercolor illustrations, in a dour and subtle palette, channel a Gothic sensibility. Grimly’s characteristic style combines both steam-punk and organic monstrosities, resulting in images that are horrifying, humorous and beautiful. His renderings imbue Frankenstein-never a sympathetic character-with a quirky pathos. Grimly has abridged Shelley’s text but preserved her original language. His graphic novel adaptation re-envisions Frankenstein, making it accessible to a new generation.

A graphic novel book group I teach read Grimly’s Frankenstein last year. The illustrations were admired, but it was only this year that the story really seemed to grab them. Several of the boys, now in eighth grade, have read and re-read it and two went so far as to create an excellent book trailer-see above. I continue to be impressed with how excellent illustrations can leverage the power of text, propelling a book from good to great and allowing readers to connect to ideas on multiple levels.