Bog Child, by Siobhan Dowd


I was intrigued by the title of this book. As a child, I had read a cool book called The Bog People by P.V. Glob (what a great last name). It was about Iron Age people in Scandanavia and the British Isles found preserved in the peat bogs. Many archaeologists think they were some kind of ritual sacrifice as their stomachs usually contain a gruel of mixed grains and some had a rope around their neck or a slashed throat. This book mentions The Bog People, involves archaeologists, but is also about the Troubles in Northern Ireland, a young boy with dreams of going to medical school, his brother who is in prison and joins a hunger strike, and an unlikely friendship with a young Welsh soldier at a border crossing.

(As a side note, I wrote a paper on the archaeological and botanical evidence gleaned from the “bog people” for an Economic Botany class taught by Richard Schultes at Harvard. The paper is now enshrined for eternity in the Botanical Library there. Maybe with so many things being scanned and made accessible on the internet, I may be able to read it someday).

The book alternates between the boy’s life in a smallish Irish town, his family, worries about the Troubles, car bombs going off, hunger strikes, and what he dreams about the young girl found he finds in the peat cutting. He names her Mel. As the dreams unfold and as an archaologist Felicity and her daughter Cora shepherd the body through various tests (x-rays, radiocarbon dating), we learn more about what her life might have been like and why she ended up in the bog.

This is one of two unpublished novels left by the author when she died of cancer at age 47. Her first book, “A Swift Pure Cry, won the Branford Boase Award and the Eilis Dilon Award and was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal and the Booktrust Teenage Prize. Her second novel, The London Eye Mystery, won the 2007 NASEN & TES Special Educational Needs Children’s Book Award” (back fold in of the dust jacket).

Even though this book is supposed to be teen literature, some of the themes are quite adult. I would recommend it to mature readers, 14 and up. I enjoyed it also as an adult.

Dowd, Siobhan. (2008). Bog Child. Random House Children’s Books, ISBN 978-0-385-75169-8, 322 pages plus the author’s note. www.siobhandowd.co.uk

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About KLevenson

I am Teacher Librarian at Piedmont High School in the San Francisco East Bay. I am a part time reference Librarian I for the San Francisco Public Library. I have a Masters in Library and Information Sciences from San Jose State and a Teacher Librarian credential in addition to my teaching credential in Science. My first MA was from Harvard in Archaeology. My students teach me something new every time I am with them!
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