Bog Child

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Bog Child Book Poster Image
Lyrical but realistic; teens may need Irish history lesson.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

This story is based on real events at the Long Kesh prison. The author's notes provide a little context, but readers will need some help understanding the Troubles and the terminology of Provos and Unionists and Sinn Fein. Even so, this book may inspire teens to learn more about this painful time in history. See our recommended media for other Irish stories to consider.

 

Positive Messages

Fegus loves his brother, but befriends a Welsh soldier. As the Publishers Weekly review states, this book succeeds in "powerfully bringing home the impact of political conflict on innocent bystanders."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Fergus and his family are lovely characters. Readers will learn a lot from Fergus, especially, who is caught literally at the border of many political tensions.  He may sometimes act unlawfully, but he is relatable, ad his story gives readers a good entry point into a complicated time in history.

Violence

A woman is stabbed by a friend before she can be hung, death through hunger-strikes, a bomb blows up a car and soldiers, a man is murdered by being hit in the head with a rock, a man kicks a boy in the ribs.

Sex

Kissing and making out; condoms; two teens are in bed together in a sexual situation but do not actually have sex; reference to "screwing."

Language

"S--t," "feck," "f--k," "bitch."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Smoking of cigarettes (called "fags" in British slang), drinking and drunkenness are part of the culture.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that teens smoke, drink, get drunk, make out, and come close to having sex. The story takes place during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and is based on real events at the Long Kesh prison.  There are bombings and suicidal hunger strikes, and while he author's notes provides a little context, readers will need some help understanding the Troubles and the terminology of Provos and Unionists and Sinn Fein. Even so, this book may inspire teens to learn more about this painful time in history. See our recommended media for other Irish stories to consider.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byGhillie December 26, 2010

Not What I Expected

I listened to this book on CD when I was only 12. I was surprised at the sexual content, violence, and language. It is an amazing story and will teach kids a lo... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byRudy Louis October 12, 2010

for 13 and up

It's the best story ever

What's the story?

Fergus lives in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. He's got a lot going on: He knows his exams are his only ticket out, but he's also dealing with his brother, an imprisoned IRA fighter, who is on a hunger strike, and he's being pressured into secretly carrying mysterious packages back and forth across the border. Fergus and his uncle discover a body buried in a bog, which turns out to be nearly 2000 years old. Archeologists arrive to argue over the find and which country owns it, and Fergus finds himself falling for one of their daughters. He also starts having strange dreams about the life of the girl whose body they found. Includes an author's note that gives a brief look at the book's context.

Is it any good?

This is a lovely book about an unlovely time and place -- a grim Northern Irish town in the early '80s. Fergus and his family are appealing characters living through exceptionally difficult events, and the parallel story of the long-ago life of Mel, the bog child, seen through Fergus' troubled dreams, adds resonance and depth to the story. Especially touching are Fergus' forbidden friendship with a young British border guard, and his family's division and desperation over his brother Joe's hunger strike: "Oh, Joe. The consequences. On you, on us, on all of us. Did you think of them? Did you?"

Basing the story on real events at the Long Kesh prison, the late author, British herself, assumes that her readers know all about the Troubles, and understand the terminology of Provos and Unionists and Sinn Fein. She helps them out with only the briefest of Author's Notes, and no glossary. American teens will need some help with context, either by explaining it to them or pointing them toward researching it for themselves. Without that context the story is still readable, but makes a whole lot less sense.

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about historical fiction. Why is it important to read about events that happened in the past? Does reading a fictional story like this make a different impression on you than reading facts in a history book? How so?

  • What do you know about the history of this time? Does the author's note explain enough -- or do you need a greater context? Families interested in learning more about the Troubles might want to consider visiting the BBC's Web site

Book details

For kids who love history and historical fiction

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