Monday, April 22, 2019

How to Catch a Bogle

How to Catch a Bogle
by Catherine Jinks
Recommended Ages: 11+

Welcome to a Dickensian underbelly of London where missing children often turn out to have been eaten by monsters known as bogles, which haunt chimneys and sewers. Here young Birdie McAdam scratches out a living as an apprentice to a veteran bogler named Alfred Bunce. Combining Birdie's tireless, tuneful voice with a quick thrust from Alfred's demon-slaying spear, the pair makes short work of these nasties.

In another era (say, that of Jonathan Stroud's "Lockwood & Co." thrillers), it would be a prestigious line of work. In Birdie's time, it's regarded as the kind of pest-removal service whose purveyors are let in by the kitchen door, sometimes known only to the servants. They are the saviors of chimney sweeps, scullery maids, and the muckers who pick through whatever washes ashore along the Thames. Who is going to listen to them when they discover that behind the latest plague of ghouls stands a respectable doctor, bent on summoning evil spirits to do his bidding? Things that crawl out of uncovered wells and sooty flues are scarcely more chilling than a human monster who sacrifices children to his own desire for power. And now, Birdie stands in his way.

Besides being a thrilling, funny and mildly romantic story – with a pickpocket on one hand and a mudlark on the other vying for Birdie's affections – it's also a nifty primer on lower-class London slang (there's even a glossary at the back) and a vivid picture of 19th century English urban life, only with scaly critters added. It plumbs such dark spaces of the imagination as being locked up in a lunatic asylum, being dangled as bait in front of a child-eating horror, and being squeezed into a starchy dress by a prim lady who wants you to grow up nice and proper. Imagine being given the choice between them. Also, the lyrics of the songs that Birdie sings are hysterical.

This book, a.k.a. A Very Unusual Pursuit, is the first book of the City of Orphans series. It continues in A Plague of Bogles (a.k.a. A Very Peculiar Plague) and The Last Bogler (a.k.a A Very Singular Guild). Catherine Jinks is the Australian-Canadian author of the four-book Pagan Chronicles, the Allie's Ghost Hunters quartet, the Cadel Piggott/Evil Genius trilogy, The Reformed Vampire Support Group, The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group and loads of other titles for teens and younger.

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