Reviews

ARC Alert! Elizabeth and Zenobia

Miller, Jessica. Elizabeth and Zenobia. Amulet Books. 208 pages, 2017. Hardcover $14.60, ISBN 978-1-41972-724-5

Elizabeth and ZenobiaTL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

Anticipated Publication: September 2017

Genre: Horror

Part of a series? No

Plot Summary:

When her father decides it is time to move back to his childhood home, Elizabeth and her friend Zenobia have no other choice but to go along. (Father isn’t so pleased that Zenobia is coming along since she is, after all, imaginary — well, maybe not quite imaginary, but not quite real, either.) Elizabeth is afraid of everything — ghosts, the dark, gloves without hands in them — and Zenobia loves EVERYTHING creepy or disturbing. Poisons? Check. Ghosts — oh, excuse me, Spirit Presences? Check. Edgar Allan Poe? Check. Something is … off in Witheringe House, and to Zenobia’s delight, the conditions are PERFECT for a haunting. Add to that the fact that the East Wing of the house is forbidden to the girls, the eeriness increases the longer the girls are there. As more secrets are revealed, more seances are performed, and more bizarre midnight happenings occur, it becomes clear that something is truly and deeply wrong at Witheringe House. Will Elizabeth be brave enough to uncover the truth, and will she be strong enough to vanquish the evil that lurks in the house?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

The book’s description refers to it as “middle grade gothic horror,” and that is a perfect description. That creeping weirdness so critical in a good gothic novel is here in full force. Plants that seem a little too alive, a house with many secrets, silent and seemingly ubiquitous housekeepers, and a governess contending with mysterious forces all feature here. The book moves quickly, but it’s a page-turner, meaning that readers are going to enjoy this scary story enough not to want to put it down.

It’s a great read-alike for fans of Coraline, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. (Doll Bones is also similar with regards to creepy ghost factors!) Edgar Allan Poe is mentioned several times as he has the honor of being Zenobia’s favorite author. The book also draws upon gothic classics; Witheringe House of course reminds us of the title of Wuthering Heights; the governess plot smacks of Jane Eyre; the nursery’s walls are reminiscent of “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” and the whole “don’t go in the East Wing” situation is VERY Bluebeard. There’s something here for every gothic fan!

 

Grade Level: 4-8

 

Reviews · Uncategorized

Bones, Boats, and Books: Doll Bones by Holly Black

Podehl, Nick and Black, Holly. Doll Bones. Digital file. Listening Library/Findaway World, 2013. 5 hours 11 minutes, 23 seconds. $39.00 ISBN 978-0-8041-2293-1

This is a wonderful unabridged audiobook. The book alone would definitely be creepy, but hearing this ghost story aloud is chilling. Poppy, Alice, and Zach are engrossed in a game involving pirates, thieves, and an imprisoned Queen. The Queen, an expensive bone china doll locked in Poppy’s mother’s living room case, is the focal point of their adventures. While they have been barred from ever opening the case (let alone touching the doll), the children use the Queen as the driving force behind all of their characters’ action. When Zach’s father throws away Zach’s action figures in an effort to force him to grow up, Zach is so upset that he can’t bear to tell his friends what happened. Instead, Zach lies and says that he doesn’t want to play anymore. In an attempt to draw Zach back into the game, Poppy opens her mother’s cabinet and takes out the Queen. Immediately, Poppy claims that the ghost of Eleanor Kirtchner appeared to her in the night, telling her story and claiming to be the ghost of the dead girl used to make the Queen. The china that makes up the Queen’s body? According to Poppy, it came from Eleanor’s bones. Poppy claims that the only way to put Eleanor’s spirit to rest is to bury the Queen in Eleanor’s own (empty) grave … all the way in East Liverpool, one state over and a long bus ride away.

Black can transition from game to ghost story in an instant, leaving the exploits of William and Lady J in the dust as she jumps to a frightening description of the Queen and her (perhaps malign) intentions. Poppy, Alice, and Zach have clearly differentiated voices in Podehl’s reading, and Zach is a fun narrator to walk alongside as we try to ensure that the Queen is properly buried. Is the Queen really haunted by Eleanor’s ghost, or did Poppy just make it all up as one last, grand Game? It’s a creepy, delightful, “unputdownable” story, perfect for a student who enjoys ghost stories, Neil Gaiman, or other scary reads.

Tweens who reviewed the book on Common Sense Media were split. Of the three reviews, one tween loved the book, one was very disappointed and wished that it was up to par with Black’s other books, and the third thought that it was too scary. Despite these mixed reviews, if there was interest in my patron base, I would like to use this book with students for a fun read. School Library Journal also selected this audiobook as a “Pick of the Day” in 2013.

 

Programming Ideas: This would be a fantastic alternate to a library read-aloud for older students. At five hours it’s a bit of a commitment, but perhaps a group of interested students could gather at their lunch breaks to listen. Doing half an hour a day only took me about a week and a half, so it’s definitely a doable listen as a pre-Halloween scary read! (Idea from myself).

 

Reviews read:

Common Sense Media. (n. d.). All teen and kid member reviews for Doll Bones.    Common Sense Media. Retrieved from             https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/doll-bones/user-reviews/child

School Library Journal. (2013, Aug. 2). Pick of the day: Doll bones (audio) (Review of      the audiobook Doll Bones). School Library Journal. Retrieved from    http://www.slj.com/2013/08/industry-news/pick-of-the-day-doll-bones-audio/

Stewart, D. (n. d.). Doll bones (Review of the book Doll Bones). Common Sense Media.   Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/doll-bones