Haunted dolls and other ghostly, spine-tingling nightmares

‘Tis the season for reading spooky stories, so in addition to Holly Black’s Doll Bones, I’ve also been reading some of Bruce Coville’s anthologies — namely, his Books of Ghosts, Nightmares, and Spine Tinglers.

Doll BonesHolly Black.  Doll Bones.  New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013.

Poppy, Zach, and Alice have spent years playing an elaborate make-believe game involving pirates, mermaids, and the Great Queen — a bone china doll kept always in a glass cabinet in Poppy’s house.  Poppy and Alice don’t seem to care about any teasing they attract for playing with dolls, but Zach is feeling more and more pressure from his father, who wants Zach to focus on playing basketball instead.  Then Zach’s dad does something drastic, and Zach feels forced to quit the game.  Too ashamed to tell Poppy and Alice the real reason, he pretends he’s suddenly lost interest.

But that’s when the game takes a serious turn.  Poppy claims the Queen came to life one night as the ghost of a real girl, demanding her body — the doll — be properly buried.  Could this just be Poppy’s way of forcing Zach and Alice to keep playing, or is there actually something supernatural about the doll?

BookRiot included this book in their list of books to terrify children (note that the review could be considered a tad spoilery), and while I personally didn’t find the book that scary, I can see how it would be to some readers.  The things Zach, Poppy, and Alice learn about the doll during their quest are pretty creepy.

You know what else is scary?  The thought of how Poppy’s mother will react when she finds out what the kids did to her antique doll that she wanted to sell on TV.  Yikes!

The Bruce Coville anthologies.

Ghosts  Nightmares
Spine Tinglers  Spine Tinglers 2

My favorite stories:

Bruce Coville, ed.  Bruce Coville’s Book of Ghosts.  New York: Scholastic, 1994.

  • “Not From Detroit,” by Joe R. Lansdale.  Margie and Alex have been married over fifty years, and one stormy night they find themselves discussing their mortality.  That very night, Death drives up to collect, but Alex won’t let him get away so easily.
  • “The Ghost in the Summer Kitchen,” by Mary Frances Zambreno.  Lately, the ghost of a little girl has been visiting Rose in the detached kitchen.  There must be something she wants or needs to do before moving on, and Rose is determined to figure out what.  As it turns out, there’s something Rose needs from the girl, too.

Bruce Coville’s Book of Nightmares.  New York: Scholastic, 1995.

  • “Drawing the Moon,” by Janni Lee Simner.  Everyone believes Andrew’s parents were killed by a mugger, but Andrew knows they were really stolen by the moon, which enters his room every night and taunts him with images of them.  Finally, Andrew traps the moon and insists it give his parents back.  Only, there’s a terrible price.
  • “The Hand,” by Eugene M. Gagliano.  What’s creepier than being woken up by a blood-dripping disembodied hand?

Bruce Coville’s Book of Spine Tinglers.  New York: Scholastic, 1996.

  • “The Thing in Auntie Alma’s Pond,” by Bruce Coville.  Margaret is scared of water, but something in the pond is calling to her, begging her to come in.  And when she wakes in the morning, she finds water on the floor, as though the pond is reaching out to her.
  • “Those Three Wishes,” by Judith Gorog.  Cruel Melinda Alice reluctantly spares a snail in her path, and is granted three wishes.  At first it’s thrilling, but soon Melinda gets careless and says something she shouldn’t have.
  • “Past Sunset,” by Vivian Vande Velde.  In the village, there’s a certain street that no one sets foot on after sunset, for fear of meeting the ghostly lady.  “Never look at her eyes,” the grandmothers warn, “for there [is] no looking away.”

Bruce Coville’s Book of Spine Tinglers II.  New York: Scholastic, 1997.

  • “Same Time Next Year,” by Neal Schusterman.  Another one of those Be Careful What You Wish For stories.  Marla Nixbok believes she’s totally “ahead of her time,” so she’s thrilled at the chance to explore Buford Planct’s basement, where a creepy professor disappeared seven years ago.  Because the basement is full of futuristic experiments and gadgets, and one of those gadgets turns out to be a time machine.  But of course, the machine doesn’t work exactly as she expects.
  • “The Instrument,” by Martha Soukup.  Melanie finds the instrument in the basement of her favorite thrift shop.  It’s missing strings, but just tapping on it creates a perfect sound that hushes all the noise around her.  It seems like a great thing, but just how far will Melanie go to keep that feeling of perfect stillness?


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