Zach loves two things: playing basketball and playing in an imaginary world he has created with his two best friends Poppy and Alice. Using dolls and action figures, this game has developed into an epic story, full of complex characters, plot twists, and the Queen, an antique porcelain doll Poppy's mother keeps locked in a glass case.
Zach's father, on the other hand, thinks that Zach is too old to play with dolls. After an argument with is father, Zach decides his only course of action will be to tell the girls that he no longer wants to play the game with them. Then, Poppy informs him that the Queen came to him in a dream and told her that she is the spirit of a murdered girl, whose bones were ground up and put in this doll. Now all three of them are cursed unless lay the doll, and the dead girl's remains, to rest in the girl's hometown. The final chapter of their game begins as Zach, Poppy, and Alice embark on an adventure to lay the Queen to rest.
Author Holly Black, cocreator of The Spiderwick Chronicles, weaves a magnificent story melding the real, the gothic, and the paranormal. This is a wonderful book about growing up meant for 10 to 14-year old readers. It walks the line between the fantasy and innocence of childhood and the cynicism and reality of adolescence to tell a story so specific but universal. When do we have to leave the toys of our youth behind? As an adult, and an educator, I raged against the father who wouldn't understand his sons relationship with his friends and the creativity involved in their game.
I read this book in the middle of summer and actually had to put it down at one point because I was a little creeped out. I mean, it was 1am and I should have been asleep anyway but still. I'm trying to read more middle reader books so that I have some idea about what the kid's are reading when I am teaching next year. I was inspired by Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer last year as I was working on my grad school applications, and in my dream world I would be able to craft my Language Arts curriculum based on some of her ideas. Now, being in my second quarter of grad school and actually studying Literacy and curriculum development, it seems like a dream world but also a movement that schools are working towards. Most of the schools that I have been in have developed programs around student's reading a lot of books. What was special about Miller's curriculum was that she gave the students time to talk to each other about the books that they are reading and have loved. As a voracious reader, this feels like the missing piece in many schools. Yes, obviously we need to teach children how to read, but its also important to help them find joy in reading to create lifelong readers.
Wow, that was a long soapbox rant wasn't it? And I just promised you all I'd write shorter posts. *sigh* the lies I tell myself.
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