I love a good historical fantasy, and I was meaning to read this for a very long time before it actually made its way home from the library with me.
How to Catch a Bogle. by Catherine Jinks. Illustrated by Sarah Watts. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013
It’s Victorian London, and orphaned Birdie is proud to have a good job as an apprentice to Alfred Bunce, the bogle catcher. Bogles like to hide in dark places, like the insides of chimneys, from whence they will come out to eat unsuspecting children if they are not properly dealt with. Birdie’s job is to be the bait – her sweet, childlike singing voice draws the bogles out of hiding, so that Mr. Bunce can capture them. While well-bred adults are shocked at a child putting her life in danger this way, Birdie is just happy to have an honest job that supports her and that helps keep other children safe. She might not have enough money to buy new clothes, but she works hard to have at least something bright to be part of her otherwise drab outfits (that pink dress on the cover is not at all what she’s described as wearing). Two complications arise in her otherwise simple but satisfying life: Miss Eames, a lady scholar, who thinks that bogles are charming legends, and is willing first to pay to watch bogle-catchers at work, and then to pay to keep Birdie from working. Then, more children than usual start going missing, and the evidence points to it being an unscrupulous human rather than a bogle. Can Birdie solve the mystery and keep her independence?
This was a lot of fun! Thinking back at it, I could see that it did have some flaws. Birdie’s young friends in the street aren’t really developed fully, and maybe the overall plot could have used some smoothing out. I think (trying to get inside the Cybils committee’s heads) that this is why the similar-feeling Rose made it to the shortlist and this didn’t. When I was reading it, though, I didn’t notice any of those flaws. I loved cheeky, self-sufficient Birdie and was entirely caught up in her adventures and seeing if she would make it through to catch another bogle. I wish she wasn’t wearing that pink dress on the cover, because the story is action-oriented with lots of fighting of gruesome monsters as well as tracking down of dastardly criminals and I think that plenty of boys as well as girls would enjoy it. Now I’m pondering if this is a good fit for my Fantasy for Music Lovers list or not, as Birdie’s singing isn’t magical in and of itself, but this is a fantasy with lots of music in it.