Historical fantasy is always a lot of fun, and Catherine Jinks certainly brings the fun (along with the slightly creepy) in her new novel How to Catch a Bogle. This will appeal to kids who genuinely like historical fiction as well as fantasy. It will have to be a reader who doesn't minds sticking with a story that doesn't seem like it's going anywhere though.
If ever a chill entered her soul, or the hope suddenly drained from her heart, she knew a bogle was to blame.
Birdie McAdam, a ten-year-old orphan, is tougher than she looks. She's
proud of her job as apprentice to Alfred the Bogler, a man who catches
monsters for a living. Birdie lures the bogles out of their lairs with
her sweet songs, and Alfred kills them before they kill her. On the mean
streets of Victorian England, hunting bogles is actually less dangerous
work than mudlarking for scraps along the vile river Thames. (See
glossary!) Or so it seems—until the orphans of London start to disappear...
Birdie is a fierce, determined, brave heroine. She sings beautifully, which is what attracted the attention of Alfred the Bogler. He made her his apprentice because everyone knows there is nothing that a bogle likes more than fresh yummy kids to snack on. Birdie takes great pride in her work and does it well. For his part Alfred is a good master. (Minus the part where he regularly puts her life in danger.) The book has a cast of other colorful Victorian characters from the woman who runs the local den of thieves to a higher class lady interested in faerie lore.
The plot is interesting. Who doesn't want to read about a brave, intrepid team catching demons and how they do it? The first two thirds of the book is a bit repetitive. They catch a bogle and the process is detailed. They do it again. Again it's detailed. They do it again. More detail. And....you get my point. It isn't until about 180 pages before the end that the story takes off in the direction of finding what happened to the missing boys. Then we get a good old fashioned villain. I loved the last 100 pages. The getting there was a bit rough I will admit. Add to that there is a lot of Victorian London slang and dialect, and this book is going to appeal to a very specific group of kids. Those kids are out there though in every classroom and school, and when they find this they will clutch it to their chests with joy. It has all the elements to make it a favorite with the right reader. In fact, I have students who I'm already planning on nudging in this direction.
I received an e-galley from the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, via Edelweiss. How to Catch a Bogle is available for purchase on September 3.