A witch dolls up local children by transforming them into, well, dolls.
Sixth-grader Josie, along with her mother and younger sister, Anna, moves from Chicago to a small town to live with their grandmother. Grandma Jeannie, who is experiencing memory loss, has only three house rules: Windows must stay closed after dark, no dolls are allowed inside, and, it is forbidden to visit the house in the woods where Beryl lives. When Josie and her sister start hearing voices calling to them in the night they begin to understand and abide by these rules. School and a growing friendship with classmate Vanessa bring some normalcy to Josie’s new life. But when the two girls arrange to spend time together after school, Vanessa’s house turns out to be the one Josie’s grandma warned her about. Will Josie escape, or will she end up like the hundreds of other doll-children collected in the house? Alexander’s middle-grade debut (this is a pen name; the author also publishes as Alex R. Kahler) is well-plotted genre fiction, with plenty of suspense and eerie imagery. Grandma’s memory loss reads more like a trope than accurate characterization, but her involvement in the witch’s backstory adds depth to the otherwise simple narrative. Lacking any signifiers, the cast assumes a white default. Josie is vegetarian.
Delightfully spooky—readers may want to avoid dolls for a while after finishing this one. (Horror. 8-13)