The Bone Garden, by Heather Kassner

The Bone Garden, by Heather Kassner (middle grade, Henry Holt, August 6 2019), is a lovely, creepy story perfect for those who love children finding found families.

Eleven-year-old Irréelle is used to spending her days hunting beneath the cemetery that is her home, making her way through dark tunnels of the bone garden to fetch the bone dust for her mistress, the demanding Miss Vesper.  She's never rewarded for her efforts; Miss Vesper constantly finds fault with her, criticizing her mismatched, crooked body.  It's Miss Vesper's fault that Irréelle is not a perfectly shaped girl, because she was the one who made her, something she's constantly reminding the girl about.  Irréelle is terrified that Miss Vesper, her creator, will un-create her some day, and also can't help but hope that if she is good enough, she can be remade into a "normal" girl.

Her life is lonely, until she meets two other children in the graveyard, Guy and Lass, and befriends as well on of Miss Vesper's new creations, a disembodied hand with a mind of its own.  The strange group take on a mission, finding a lost grave that could solve the mystery underling Miss Vesper's past, and their own strange lives.  Miss Vesper is not at all happy that Irréelle has started acting independently, and the threat she poses grows, while at the same time, Irréelle begins to realize just how little chance there was of Miss Vesper every caring for her. 

Irréelle's growth in self-confidence and self-reflection is inspiring, and the bonds of friendship she forges that help her in this are beautifully strong.  Guy and Lass, who are tougher to begin with, are a great foil for her, and the disembodied hand adds surprising comic relief. The creepy factor adds a macabre ambience to her story while not being so horrific as to terrify--yes, there are lots of dead bodies around, but it's not a gotcha sort of horror.

Short answer--a great one for kids who enjoy friendship stories with spooky atmosphere!

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher.


  1. Ooooo, this does sound creepy. I know just the person who would like this book. Thanks for telling me about it.

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