Sally's Bones

sally's bonesMackenzie Cadenhead's Sally's Bones was a book I picked up at the Sourcebooks booth at BookExpo America last May. It was one of the last books I read in 2011. (Yes, 2011. I am very, very behind.) Before spending time in the booth I wasn't really familiar with their Jabberwocky line but if this book and The Quest of the Warrior Sheep are any indication of how fun the rest of the books are I kind of want to read them all. I loved this book.

Sally is a bit like many of us in that she's just a bit different from the crowd. As I'm sure many of us remember, being different in sixth grade is its own special kind of hell. In Sally's case, she loves death metal (my husband would approve) and blue jeans. While it may seem like nothing could make you feel more alone than being excluded by a bunch of catty sixth grade girls there is one thing that can -- losing your mother.

One day when she is feeling alone and sad, Sally goes to visit her mother's grave. After she pours her heart out, her mother is able to send her a message, and a gift, from beyond the grave. Sally suddenly finds herself in possession of a pet that will help her feel less lonely but it's a bit of an unusual pet. He's a dog but he's a skeleton dog, who Sally promptly names Bones.

Sally tries to keep Bones a secret but have you ever tried to keep something a secret from sixth graders? Yeah. Exactly. Now imagine trying to keep a skeleton dog a secret. Unfortunately not only do people find out but Sally's arch nemesis, Viola Vanderperfect, is one of them.

When dog bones start disappearing all across town everyone's eyes turn to Bones. Will Sally be able to clear his name? Or will he fall into the hands of the dreaded Dog Catcher?

Sally's Bones is a little bit darker than much of the middle grade fiction I've read lately. After all, we are talking about a girl who likes death metal and has a skeleton dog. But it also has a strong anti-bullying message. If the kid in your life can handle a slightly darker edge I think it would be a good book for kids who are struggling with bullying, especially those who have found some of the adults in authority positions to be less than helpful to their cause. I'll be passing this one on to some friends to share with their kids.

If you suddenly found yourself in possession of an exceptionally loveable skeleton dog, what would you name it?