A Plague of Bogles

Written by Catherine Jinks
Review by Kristen Hannum

Orphan Jem lives in Victorian London in the good old days, when children were cheap labor and, if unwary, food for the monstrous bogles living in the sewers and other dark corners. Jem wants to be a bogle hunter’s apprentice; specifically Alfred Bunce’s apprentice. It’s dangerous work since bogles only eat children, and so a child’s role is that of a sacrificial goat, staked out to lure a tiger. The difference being that tigers are far prettier than bogles, and that the child luring the bogle theoretically gets away – so as to work another day, luring the next bogle.

Dangerous employment is just the beginning of Jem’s problems, since he’s got a fairly bad attitude for an 11-year-old. That leads to his foolishly thinking he can even the score with a murderous thief – Sarah Pickle, his old boss.

I was so engaged with this middle-grade novel’s fast action, engaging characters (I loved Alfred), and completely believable and filthy street scenes that I forgot all about my reviewer’s critical eye. In retrospect, I’d say it’s for middle-schoolers. It’s probably too scary for younger than that.

When I came up for air at the book’s end, I was surprised to find a glossary. The writing is so strong and its Victorian slang so clear in contextual meaning that the glossary isn’t necessary. That said, it’s fun to read the words – including flam, gammon, hoistman, lurk, mun, and nobbler – and think about how to use them, one a day, in conversation. Recommended.