Author: Jody Lee Mott
Genre: Middle Grade, Horror
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Release Date: August 24, 2021
A delightfully creepy story perfect for the middle school set! Hush-a-Bye is an old, broken doll found by Lucy and her sister in the woods. It seems to possess extraordinary powers, but will it use them for good or evil?
Like most kids with younger siblings, Lucy loves her sister Antonia, but is all too frequently annoyed with her as well. The two spend most of their time together since their mother works so hard, but without friends Lucy can’t help but feel lonely anyway. She’s always tried to ignore the bullying and teasing at school about her family being poor—it’s always best to keep her head down and do nothing.
When the girls find an old, muddy doll head in the river, Antonia claims it as her newest treasure. At night Lucy hears her talking to Hush-a-Bye—and does she hear the doll talking back? Soon, Hush-a-Bye seems to be protecting Antonia by making bad things happen to others, and it isn’t long before Lucy asks for its help against her tormentors, too. Slowly Hush-a-Bye’s influence forms a wedge between the sisters, and Antonia’s dependence on it becomes frightening. The doll has a mind of its own, and soon it will have Antonia’s as well. Can Lucy solve the mystery of Hush-a-Bye to stop its evil plans?
While seventh grader Lucy and her younger sister Antonia are exploring a river next to their trailer, they find a dirty old doll’s head. Antonia insists on bringing it home, despite Lucy warning her that they’ll get in trouble for bringing home garbage. That night, they hide the doll in the closet and Antonia starts talking to it. Then, Lucy thinks she hears the doll speak back. They name the doll’s head Hush-a-Bye after a song their mother sang to them as children. Antonia brings Hush-a-Bye to school, where she believes the doll is protecting her and doing things she tells it to do. However, Antonia begins acting differently and becomes obsessed with the doll. Lucy has to figure out how to stop Hush-a-Bye before she becomes too powerful.
This story is perfect for the spooky fall season. A doll’s head without a body can be creepy enough, but when it starts to behave on its own and control a child, it becomes even scarier. The doll was able to communicate with Antonia and Lucy, and also caused conflict between the sisters. It was such a disturbing toy.
There were some serious subjects in this story. Lucy and Antonia had an abusive father, who was mentioned but didn’t appear in the novel. Their mother moved them away from him, but she had to work constantly to make enough money for them to live. This meant that Lucy and Antonia had to look after themselves a lot, which led to them finding the possessed doll’s head. Though Lucy and Antonia had faced many tough challenges in their young lives, the ending was hopeful.
Hush-a-Bye is a creepy middle grade novel!
Thank you Viking Books for Young Readers for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What to read next:
The Hiddenseek by Nate Cernosek
Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Have you read Hush-A-Bye? What did you think of it?
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