How to Catch a Bogle

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
How to Catch a Bogle Book Poster Image
Thrilling fantasy blends Dickensian charm, great suspense.

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Readers will learn about different ways of life among lower and upper classes in Victorian England, including methods of transportation, living conditions, diet, and education.

Positive Messages

How to Catch a Bogle is one of those novels that depicts children using their intelligence and bravery to solve grown-up problems; it shows that small people can do heroic and big things.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Though Miss Eames doesn't fully understand Birdie McAdam's situation, she's very kind to the young girl and wants to help her out of harm's way. Alfred Bunce teaches Birdie loyalty and honesty, and the importance of keeping a cool head under pressure.


Bogles are hidden, evil, terrifying creatures. Readers witness these monsters grabbing and clawing children, and are told that several children have been eaten by Bogles. There's little bloodshed (though when Birdie is wounded there are "little spots of blood"), but Bogles leave behind a bad-smelling, slimy green substance that's just as gross and scary as blood. To rid homes of Bogles, Alfred uses a sharp spear.


Alfred is called a "go-devil man," referring to his profession as a Bogler. When Birdie is kidnapped, she shouts at her captor, "Damn you to hell!"

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alfred Bunce keeps a flask of brandy; he drinks from it after he's successfully killed a Bogle. He also has a pipe, but no money for tobacco. Chloroform is used to sedate kidnap victims.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Catherine Jinks' How to Catch a Bogle is the first in a trilogy of fantasy novels set in Victorian London. This book introduces a cast of characters with different reasons for their interest in Bogles: monsters that hide in dark places like wells and chimneys. The setting, period, and well-drawn characters give this novel a Dickensian feel, while fantastical creatures make the plot extremely suspenseful and often frightening. There's some violence and frequent threat of violence against children, as well as a few instances of drinking by an adult. Chloroform is used to sedate kidnap victims.

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What's the story?

In Victorian London, Alfred Bunce makes his living by killing Bogles: scary monsters that live hidden in dark places like chimneys and wells. His apprentice, Birdie McAdam is a 10-year-old girl whose beautiful singing voice draws the monsters out of hiding so that Alfred can slay them. The older man and child/employee are very good at their jobs, and they're heroes to many households. Everything becomes a lot more complicated, though, when they meet a wealthy woman with a scholarly interest in Bogle killing, and they let her tag along on a particularly dangerous mission to a house where several boys have disappeared.

Is it any good?

HOW TO CATCH A BOGLE, the first installment in Catherine Jinks' trilogy, hits all the right notes. The central characters of Birdie and Alfred are beautifully rendered as complex, intelligent, caring and brave. There's also a colorful cast of pickpockets, wealthy do-gooders, and evil villains -- all threatened by the terrifying Bogles lurking in dark places.

How to Catch a Bogle is wonderful both as a thrilling fantasy and a charming period piece, and it's all the better because of the way these strong elements are combined. This is a novel that can make fantasy lovers out of historical fiction fans, and vice versa. Sarah Watts's charming black-and-white drawings introduce each chapter; each relates to the plot, but none is violent or frightening.


Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about historical fantasies. Do you think having How to Catch a Bogle set in Victorian London makes creatures like Bogles seem more or less real?

  • Why is Birdie angry with Miss Eames when the rich woman wants to help her?

  • What do you think will happen in Book 2 of the Bogle trilogy? Do you think Birdie will still be a Bogler's girl?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and history

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