Archives for posts with tag: games


Holly Black’s Doll Bones (Margaret K. McElderry, $16.99) and Jerry Spinelli’s Hokey Pokey (Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15.99) both deal with the transition from childhood to adulthood, but are very different in their approach to the process. Hokey Pokey imagines an almost idealized world of childhood, where the rules are a little less formalized that the wild frontier. Kids rein bikes like horses; they move in packs, and there is a clear distinction between boys and girls. This world is filled with candy, games, and not a little recklessness. It doesn’t quite fit with my own memories of childhood and I do wonder how kids under 12 will respond to it. Do they recognize their own world in this book? Is it only possible to see childhood, once you’re looking back? The biggest problem I had, though, was the insinuation that the the border between childhood and adulthood was both abrupt and definitive. Once you leave Hokey Pokey, or ‘grow up’, there is no going back. One day you’re a kid. The next day you’re an adult, which doesn’t seem very realistic to me. I don’t know any kids who make the transition easily and singularly. I certainly didn’t.

Alternatively, Doll Bones also narrates the transition from childhood to adulthood, but despite the fantastic elements this book feels more realistic. First, the transition isn’t so abrupt, but rather happens over a journey. Also, there is a significant internal conflict about the change for each character, that varies from character to character. Zach’s dilemmas are different than Alice’s, who again is struggling with different things than Poppy. Finally, by the end of the book, although Zach, Poppy, and Alice have grown up, there is a clear sense that they each have more growing up to do and that on occasion, they might even ‘relapse’ and not grow up at all. Doll Bones is described as “spooky” and “scary”, which I didn’t find when reading it. I liked the ambiguity, even at the end (and I don’t think this is a spoiler) about whether the game was a game or the game was real. Because games are always real. And reality is a game. And I see no reason to make a distinction. Is Doll Bones a ghost story or a growing up story? Well, yes. Also, Black demonstrates that gender is just as fluid as ‘growing up’. Zach enjoys playing imagination games with dolls in the afternoon with Poppy and Alice. He also likes playing basketball. He doesn’t switch from boy to girl. He’s a boy who likes a variety of things. He doesn’t broadcast his afternoon games — he knows that some of the other boys wouldn’t approve — but he doesn’t feel the need to stop either. Doll Bones is ultimately about the between spaces. Maybe it is a ghost story after all.

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I’m writing this post on February 5, 2013 because I am so excited about recommending this book that I can’t wait for it to come out in June. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, by Chris Grabenstein (Random House, $16.99) is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for bibliophiles, mixed with The Westing Game. It’s an ode to children’s literature. A love letter to everything we appreciate about good books. This book is a must-read for anyone who likes to read and has read a lot, if nothing else than for the enjoyment of the prolific and well-placed references to the best of children’s literature.

Eccentric Mr. Lemoncello rebuilds the public library and invites twelve 12 year olds to participate in a lock-in. The town has not had a library for twelve years and he wants to share his love of reading with a group of kids who have grown up without the benefit of a public library. The lock-in morphs into a game. The first player who discovers how to get *out* of the library will win the grand prize. So you can see why bibliophiles will love this book; it is one long celebration of books and reading. What I loved most, however, is that the game and the clues were revealed in such a way that the reader could play along with the characters. I didn’t have to passively watch the characters solve riddles (one of the things that really frustrated me about The Mysterious Benedict Society), but instead I could participate and try to figure out the puzzle for myself along the way. Almost everything in the book is a clue of some sort, so I found myself reading very carefully, trying to remember all the details. Clues are repeated throughout the book, however, which was useful because I didn’t have to write it all out, although I did consider doing so! Read, play, and enjoy! And if anyone figures out the final puzzle, please let me know! I don’t know if the ARC I read just didn’t have all the information or if I missed something really important!

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