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#Middle Grade Monday #Book Review # The Bone Garden by Heather Kassner

“Remember, my dear, you do not really and truly exist.”

Made of dust and bone and imagination, Irréelle fears she’s not quite real. Only the finest magical thread tethers her to life—and to Miss Vesper. But for all her efforts to please her cruel creator, the thread is unraveling. Irréelle is forgetful as she gathers bone dust. She is slow returning from the dark passages beneath the cemetery. Worst of all, she is unmindful of her crooked bones.

When Irréelle makes one final, unforgivable mistake by destroying a frightful creature just brought to life, Miss Vesper threatens to imagine her away once and for all. Defying her creator for the very first time, Irréelle flees to the underside of the graveyard and embarks on an adventure to unearth the mysterious magic that breathes bones to life, even if it means she will return to dust and be no more.

With echoes of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, debut author Heather Kassner crafts a gorgeously written story humming with magic, mystery, and dark imaginings. (From Book Synopsis)

My thoughts: What a flight of imagination! A spooky story full of magic, adventure, friendship, and hope.

The protagonist of the Bone Garden Irréelle (‘ Unreal’), made of bone dust and her creator’s magic imagination is so loveable. She is a pure soul, ever mindful of the needs and feelings of the others. The beginning of this eery, Gothic tale transports you to dark and drafty underground tunnels under a graveyard, and Irreelle is on her mission to collect (extract) bone dust that will permit Miss Vesper restore her vitality. All Irréelle wants is to be a real girl, like little girls with pigtails in the neighbouring garden who she quietly observes, making sure nobody notices how deformed, unaligned and crooked her limbs are.

Nothing ever pleases Miss Vesper who is always quick to remind Irréelle that she doesn’t really exist and can be easily replaced. When Irréelle tries to protect herself from a strange creature, brought into life by Miss Vesper’s magic, and accidentally breaks it, Miss Vesper wants to destroy her in a really painful and cruel way. After all, Irréelle is disposable, she is neither loved, nor appreciated. Irréelle manages to run away and hide in the tunnels she knows so well by now. Here she helps to free another creation of Miss Vesper, a boy who defied her orders and was buried under a pile of boulders moved by the sheer will of Miss Vesper’s ire and revenge. Guy becomes Irréelle’s first friend who helps her to make their way outside and challenge her inexplicable connection to her tormentor. But if you think the scary part is over, you’re mistaken. The adventure only begins. Together, Irréelle, Guy, and two other fugitives Lass and Hand (who seem to be more assetive and proactive than Irréelle ) must solve the mystery and origin of Miss Arden Mae Vesper’s dark magic.

Irréelle undergoes a huge transformation from a quiet, obedient, awkward girl, who wants to do everything in her power to please her creator, even if, deep down, she knows it is wrong. Gradually, she begins to accept her own worth and the fact that she is a brave, smart, tenacious, perceptive girl ‘with a big heart and a will of her own’.

The setting is really dark (most of it happens either undergound or in the graveyard), so it might not be suitable for young children, but midlle graders will appreciate the dark Gothic charm of the magic world created by Heather Kessner.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Henry Holt and Co. for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read The Bone Garden or is it on your tbr?
  • What are the best Middle Grade books you have read recently?
  • Are you a fan of Tim Burton’s and Neil Gaiman’s work?

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