The Bone Garden

The Bone Garden

“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 b...

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Title:The Bone Garden
Author:Heather Kassner
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Edition Language:English

The Bone Garden Reviews

  • Amélie Zhao

    I've had the absolute privilege of reading an early copy of this, and ... wow. Let me first say that I have not read a middle grade book for about ten years. But THE BONE GARDEN grabbed me from the very first chapter and would not let go.

    Heather writes with a gentle magic and breathtaking beauty, and it's the exact sort of fragile, hopeful feeling that we get from the main character, Irreélle (a beautiful name meaning "unreal" or "surreal" in French). Irreélle is made of bone dust and fragments

    I've had the absolute privilege of reading an early copy of this, and ... wow. Let me first say that I have not read a middle grade book for about ten years. But THE BONE GARDEN grabbed me from the very first chapter and would not let go.

    Heather writes with a gentle magic and breathtaking beauty, and it's the exact sort of fragile, hopeful feeling that we get from the main character, Irreélle (a beautiful name meaning "unreal" or "surreal" in French). Irreélle is made of bone dust and fragments of Miss Vesper's imagination, and from the start we see her question her existence with a quiet hopefulness that tucks this character into the tenderest folds of your heart. Heather lures you in to care for Irreélle from the very start, and you won't realize it until you're still propped up in bed at 1AM on a Monday night, reading by the dim glow of your Kindle to find out what happens to Irreélle and her friends.

    This is a story that is at once grim but hopeful, creepy yet funny, heart-wrenching and hilarious at times. Very much like the graveyard tunnels that Irreélle frequents, the atmosphere and storyline are dark, yet we find pockets of light by the glow of Irreélle's candle; we feel the comfort of friendship by a guiding Hand in the darkness; and by the end, we feel the warmth by the corals of a sunrise that Irreélle and her friends enjoy as they reflect upon their adventure, and their newfound understanding of what it means to be human.

  • Gabrielle Byrne

    I was so thrilled (and lucky) to have the opportunity to read an early version of THE BONE GARDEN. In Irreelle, Kassner has built a heroine who is both eerie and sympathetic, hypnotic and disturbing. The way Miss Vesper wields her cold power is on par with the Mother from CORALINE, or the Father in MONSTROUS. Readers who love Neil Gaiman, Marcy Kate Connolly, or Jonathan Auxier are going to love THE BONE GARDEN. The writing is lyrical. The setting has the feel of a dark Victorian tale. Kassner d

    I was so thrilled (and lucky) to have the opportunity to read an early version of THE BONE GARDEN. In Irreelle, Kassner has built a heroine who is both eerie and sympathetic, hypnotic and disturbing. The way Miss Vesper wields her cold power is on par with the Mother from CORALINE, or the Father in MONSTROUS. Readers who love Neil Gaiman, Marcy Kate Connolly, or Jonathan Auxier are going to love THE BONE GARDEN. The writing is lyrical. The setting has the feel of a dark Victorian tale. Kassner deftly balances her emotional punches with moments of macabre hilarity. It is a delightful, shivery page-turner, and I adored every minute of it.

  • Joan He

    It's been a longgg time since I've read any MG but Heather's book brought back all the creepy yet heartfelt elements I loved in old timers such as Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket's books. The writing feels classic yet perennial, the atmosphere so rich that you can smell the mold of the graveyard's underbelly but also the fine tea laced with vanilla, and the characters were so sympathetic. Irreelie's wishes and fears are clear yet complex, and I loved how she and the rest of the cast--the villain i

    It's been a longgg time since I've read any MG but Heather's book brought back all the creepy yet heartfelt elements I loved in old timers such as Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket's books. The writing feels classic yet perennial, the atmosphere so rich that you can smell the mold of the graveyard's underbelly but also the fine tea laced with vanilla, and the characters were so sympathetic. Irreelie's wishes and fears are clear yet complex, and I loved how she and the rest of the cast--the villain included--were magicked into life by a deft yet gentle hand.

  • Toni

    What a flight of imagination! A truly original story. Spooky, scary, perfect for a camp cabin or a sleepover story sharing.

    I loved the protagonist of the Bone Garden, aptly named Irréelle (' Unreal'). Made of bone dust and her creator's magic imagination, Irreelle is courageous, loving, and loyal. The beginning might scare you because it takes place in underground tunnels under a graveyard, and Irreelle is on her mission to collect (extract) bone dust that will permit Miss Vesper, her cruel crea

    What a flight of imagination! A truly original story. Spooky, scary, perfect for a camp cabin or a sleepover story sharing.

    I loved the protagonist of the Bone Garden, aptly named Irréelle (' Unreal'). Made of bone dust and her creator's magic imagination, Irreelle is courageous, loving, and loyal. The beginning might scare you because it takes place in underground tunnels under a graveyard, and Irreelle is on her mission to collect (extract) bone dust that will permit Miss Vesper, her cruel creator, continue looking for a clearly marked unmarked grave that holds a secret to her life and magic. All Irréelle wants is to be a real girl, like her neighbours she quietly observes, making sure nobody notices how deformed she is.

    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 painful and cruel way, but, luckily, Irréelle manages to run away and hide in the tunnels she knows so well by now. Here she helps to free Guy who becomes her first friend and together they make their way outside. But if you think the scary part is over, you're mistaken. The adventure only begins. Together, Irréelle, Guy and two other friends they make on their way must solve the mystery of Miss Arden Mae Vesper and help her reunite with the love of her life.

    Irréelle undergoes a huge transformation from a quiet, obedient, awkward girl, who wants to do everything in her power to please her tormentor, even if deep down she knows it is wrong. Gradually, she begins to question her own motivation, and proves to be a 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 graveyar), 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.

  • Aly (In Wonderland)

    If you ever wondered what would happen if Neil Gaiman and Tim Burton had a baby, then look no further. Heather Kassner’s debut

    is a deliciously twisted middle grade tale of a girl who doesn’t truly exist and her quest to become something more.

    Irréelle has known nothing but Miss Vesper and the bone garden for as long as she can remember. One day she was nothing, and the next she just was. Miss Vesper rules with an iron fis

    If you ever wondered what would happen if Neil Gaiman and Tim Burton had a baby, then look no further. Heather Kassner’s debut

    is a deliciously twisted middle grade tale of a girl who doesn’t truly exist and her quest to become something more.

    Irréelle has known nothing but Miss Vesper and the bone garden for as long as she can remember. One day she was nothing, and the next she just was. Miss Vesper rules with an iron fist, and Irréelle must follow the rules — lest she breaks them, and Miss Vesper “unmakes” her. The young girl knows Miss Vesper can do this because she can feel the unnatural tugging in her stomach whenever her unmaking is threatened.

    And so Irréelle does what she is told, day in and day out, collecting the bone dust that makes Miss Vesper young and beautiful. Until one day, when Irréelle makes one unforgivable mistake and is chased into the tunnels below the house, where she meets a young boy who was “unmade” by Miss Vesper. Together, they set out on a journey seeking forgiveness and redemption by finding the one grave Miss Vesper can’t find.

    I don’t usually read middle grade, and wasn’t aware The Bone Garden was one until I was quite far into it. Needless to say, it’s a fantastic book. It’s spooky, but funny; sad in places, but also highly exciting in others. The characters are brilliant (Irréelle in particular really tugged at my heartstrings) and the story is fast-paced and enjoyable. It didn’t matter what happened, I was constantly turning the pages, excited to see what else the characters got up to.

    Kassner’s debut is one in a million, and she painted such a beautiful tale of loss and sorrow and love in her first book that some writers could only ever dream of achieving in their entire careers.

    If it wasn’t on your radar before, I sincerely hope you reach for

    the next chance you get!

  • Dannii Elle

    This book is like the love child of Tim Burton, Neil Gaiman, and the Brothers Grimm and could not fail to appeal to my Gothic-loving heart.

    The Bone Garden follows Irréelle, a being made of dust and bone and kept alive by imagination and on the good graces of Miss Vesper. But when Irréelle shatters Miss Vesper's newest creation she is banished from her sight and must strive to survive amongst the dead, traversing the graveyard beyond her once home.

    This story walked the fine line between fun and d

    This book is like the love child of Tim Burton, Neil Gaiman, and the Brothers Grimm and could not fail to appeal to my Gothic-loving heart.

    The Bone Garden follows Irréelle, a being made of dust and bone and kept alive by imagination and on the good graces of Miss Vesper. But when Irréelle shatters Miss Vesper's newest creation she is banished from her sight and must strive to survive amongst the dead, traversing the graveyard beyond her once home.

    This story walked the fine line between fun and darkness, dispatched a sinister, Gothic menace from an innocent slant and delivered it with a fair amount of wit. Everything, from the initial scene which led our protagonist to an underground coffin, the later graveyard setting, and the elements that made up Irréelle herself, spoke of only darkness yet the author managed to infuse this with a light that made it suitable for younger readers whilst the story-line was convoluted enough to appeal to elder ones.

    Irréelle, that eerie little being, stole my heart. She was a creation of darkness yet spread solely light. Her soul was innocent, despite her life being plauged by dark intentions and dogged by menace. She very early on had all of my love and I want to read a lifetime of books following her adventures.

    Middle grade can be hit or miss for me. Some appeal, and rightly so, to a younger audience only. Others are whimsical adventure stories full of timeless and ageless allure. This was categorically the latter. It can, and should, be read and enjoyed by all, whether 8 or 80 and every age inbetween.

  • Kai

    All I want is for this to become a stop motion horror film á la Coraline.

    I knew from the very first page that

    was going to be special. It immediately pulled me into a sinister world of dark magic, evil caretakers, and cemeteries brimming with shadows. The first few chapters set a hair-raising atmosphere, one that I hoped would be maintained until the final pages, but feared that it would crumble sooner than later. And I wasn't wrong.

    I loved the idea, the characters, the setting,

    All I want is for this to become a stop motion horror film á la Coraline.

    I knew from the very first page that

    was going to be special. It immediately pulled me into a sinister world of dark magic, evil caretakers, and cemeteries brimming with shadows. The first few chapters set a hair-raising atmosphere, one that I hoped would be maintained until the final pages, but feared that it would crumble sooner than later. And I wasn't wrong.

    I loved the idea, the characters, the setting, the tone. But I didn't love the execution. It got messy. The plot went sideways and was all over the place. I can't even tell you how often the main characters went running, got caught, were locked into a room or cupboard, escaped, just to get caught

    . Sometimes I also felt like the story's central questions were solved too easily without significant clues or evidence. The answer to a problem came too easily without any misdirection, making the plot easily predictable.

    Overall a promising idea in need of more polishing.

  • Lily ☁️

    is an atmospheric, haunting, and wondrous tale that conjures up memories of Neil Gaiman’s

    , as well as Victoria Schwab’s

    , and leaves a trail of goosebumps on your skin, as you follow the main character Irréelle through winding underground tunnels, and a graveyard even eerier than you’d expect.

    Irréelle’s existence, as her creator Miss Vesper never lets her forget, is made up entirely of bone dust and Miss Vesper’s imagination—just enough to easily dispose of

    is an atmospheric, haunting, and wondrous tale that conjures up memories of Neil Gaiman’s

    , as well as Victoria Schwab’s

    , and leaves a trail of goosebumps on your skin, as you follow the main character Irréelle through winding underground tunnels, and a graveyard even eerier than you’d expect.

    Irréelle’s existence, as her creator Miss Vesper never lets her forget, is made up entirely of bone dust and Miss Vesper’s imagination—just enough to easily dispose of her, should she find her no longer useful. Useful to send her to run errands, collect bone dust, and … maybe something far more sinister?

    Heather Kassner weaves a grim and at times macabre tale, infused with heartfelt, tender moments that are filled with lightness, as she navigates themes such as friendship, love, anxiety, and trust.

    I especially appreciated the portrayal of Irrélle’s relationship with Miss Vesper, who is quite cruel, and doesn’t care about Irrélle beyond her ability to fulfill the tasks she gives her—it encapsulates so well how, even though people might treat you horribly, you can still love them, care for them, and care about their approval and praise, despite knowing that you shouldn’t.

    By meeting two other magical beings who were brought to life by Miss Vesper just like she, Irréelle learns how to put her trust in herself and in others, to grow beyond the shadow of her self that she is in her creator’s presence. I loved how it shows just how much friendship can have an impact on you that is in itself magic.

    It also shows that being “different”—however you may interpret it—is not a bad thing, and you shouldn’t strive to be anyone other than who you are.

    Middle grade books may not be my main genre, but I’m immensely glad that I had the chance to read

    , and am sure that many younger readers will appreciate this unique tale.

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  • Marie

    An entertaining, unique tale overall :) Full review coming soon!

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  • Hannah Greendale

    DNF at page 88. Intriguing idea from a debut author, but comparisions made to Neil Gaiman's work are too great a stretch of the imagination. Tried to push through this one but couldn't get past the clumsy writing.

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