Readaloud of the Week: The Dollhouse Murders

The Dollhouse Murders
By Betty Ren Wright

Just in time for Halloween reading, The Dollhouse Murders is a just-spooky-enough mystery that will have everyone glued to her seat waiting for the next chapter.

On the surface, The Dollhouse Murders is a pretty classic ghost mystery story. Amy Treloar, who is taking a much-needed break from her family to stay with her aunt in the old family mansion, discovers a dollhouse in the attic. At first she's thrilled: The dollhouse is designed to look exactly like the house she's staying in, and the dollhouse family looks like the family who lived there: Amy's grandparents, her Aunt Claire, and her dad, who was just a little boy at the time. But then Amy notices something strange. Wherever she leaves the dolls, they're always in a different position when she comes back. And when she discovers that her great-grandparents were murdered in the house, she realizes that the dolls keep returning to the same positions they were in when her great-grandparents were murdered. Is the dollhouse trying to tell her something? Aunt Claire, who discovered her grandmother's body in the parlor and whose then-fiance died in a car accident the same night, isn't ready to talk about what happened to her parents, but the ghosts of the dollhouse aren't willing to be quiet about the past any longer. 

What makes it a great readaloud: There’s more to this book than just a good ghost story, though—even though this book is prime read-it-with-the-flashlight-under-your-covers material. Amy is a genuinely interesting heroine, trying to figure out how to be a good sister to her brain-damaged sister while still having her own life and her own friends. Her aunt is equally complex—so torn by guilt about her teenage rebellion that she can't seem to make peace with her past. Solving the mystery of the dollhouse murders also helps Amy and Claire come to terms with themselves, so the solution (which feels a little ham-handed, honestly, on its own) is much more satisfying. Bonus: Random references to things like Charlie bath powder will remind parents of the awesomeness of living in the 1980s.

But be aware: Part of the fun of this book is its atmospheric spookiness, but the dollhouse ghosts might be too creepy for anxious or very sensitive kids.

Quotable: “Dolls can’t move by themselves, she told herself, and felt goosebumps pop up on her arms.”