Doll Bones

Doll Bones
Written by Holly Black

Publisher’s Summary:
Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends forever. And for almost as long, they’ve been playing one continuous, ever-changing game of pirates and thieves, mermaids and warriors. Ruling over all is the Great Queen, a bone-china doll cursing those who displease her.

But they are in middle school now. Zach’s father pushes him to give up make-believe, and Zach quits the game. Their friendship might be over, until Poppy declares she’s been having dreams about the Queen–and the ghost of a girl who will not rest until the bone-china doll is buried in her empty grave.

Zach and Alice and Poppy set off on one last adventure to lay the Queen’s ghost to rest. But nothing goes according to plan, and as their adventure turns into an epic journey, creepy things begin to happen. Is the doll just a doll or something more sinister? And if there really is a ghost, will it let them go now that it has them in its clutches?

Primary Source Pairing:
The quest begins with a doll, the Queen, and her long-lost story. The story is of her early death and improper burial and now her desire to return to her grave. The quest leads Poppy, Zach, and Alice to East Liverpool, Ohio and into a Carnegie Library. The East Liverpool Carnegie Library is a real place. After a donation received by Andrew Carnegie and community support, the Carnegie Library opened in East Liverpool in 1902. Read more about the history of the library on the East Liverpool Carnegie Public Library website. The city of East Liverpool is not without its share of myths and mysteries. Read more about these on the “Area Myths and Legends” page of the East Liverpool Carnegie Public Library website. Finally, learn more about the city and its history on the East Liverpool Historical Society website.

For this primary source pairing, invite students to study an image from the first Carnegie Public Library in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While this image is not connected to the story of Doll Bones directly, often older images are interpreted as “creepy” due to their nature, age, and the differences in how photographs were taken and of whom. Let this idea begin a discussion about the evolution of photography and how and when we record moments in time.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What people and objects are shown?
  • How are they arranged?
  • What is the physical setting?
  • What’s happening in the image?
  • What do you think was happening when it was created?
  • What can you learn from examining this?
  • If someone created something like this today, what would be different?
  • What would be the same?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Carnegie Library Reading Room in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania: Library of Congress

Additional Resources:
“A More Complete History”:
“Area Myths and Legends”:
East Liverpool Historical Society Website: