Un-Forgettable Friday: Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd
November 6, 2009 in Dowd Siobhan, High School Teachers, Un-Forgettable Friday, Young Adult Novels Tags: Bog Child, historical fiction, Siobhan Dowd, young adult, young adult novel, young adult novel about Ireland
photo by masterplaan www.flickr.com
*Young adult, historical fiction set in 1981 Ireland during the “Troubles”
*18-year-old boy as the main character
*Rating: Bog Child is a wonderful story set in an unusual time/place for young adult literature. The main character’s charm carries the reader through a difficult, sometimes heartbreaking, story of a tumultuous time in Ireland’s history.
Short, short summary: Bog Child is the title of this book because 18-year-old Fergus McCann and his uncle find a 2000-year old body preserved in the bog when they are collecting peat moss. Fergus names the Iron Age girl, Mel, and imagines/dreams her heartbreaking story throughout the novel. But this book is about so much more than just a bog child. The plot centers around the “Troubles” in the early 1980s between Ireland and Northern Ireland and a hunger strike that occurred at Long Kesh. Fergus’s brother is in prison for his involvement with the IRA, and he soon joins the hunger strikers. Fergus is also “recruited” by one of his brother’s “friends” to deliver packages during his early morning runs. Fergus is sure these packages are full of explosives, but he continues to deliver them because he is basically forced into it. All Fergus wants to do is pass his exams, move to Scotland to get away from all the political turmoil and frustrating borders, and become a doctor. He also wouldn’t mind kissing Cora, the daughter of the archeologist examining Mel, as much as he can. Bog Child takes the reader through these struggles of a teenage boy while sharing bits of an interesting but sad time in the history of Ireland.
So, what do I do with this book?
1. Research and study the history of Ireland during this time. If you are teaching this novel as part of an English, history, or home school curriculum, you may want to teach about the “Troubles” before starting this novel. You can give students a part to research, and then they can make brief presentations. An understanding of this period in Ireland will make the novel even better for students and teens.
2. There are several “What would you do?” type questions that students/teens can write about and debate while reading this novel. For example, “What would you do if you were faced with delivering the packages like Fergus is?” “What would you do if you were Joe in prison and faced with the choice to join the hunger strikers?” “What would you do if you found a body in the bog?”
3. Students/teens can also discuss and write about the parallels between Mel’s story and Fergus’s story. Why does the author, Siobhan Dowd, include both stories in the novel? What is the purpose of Mel’s story in Bog Child? What do students/teens think about the title? Does it have a double meaning?