Set in Victorian England, How to Catch a Bogle tells the story of 10-year old Birdie McAdams who is an apprentice to Alfred the Bogler. A bogle is a monster that hides in dark places and eats unsuspecting children. Birdie’s job as an apprentice is to sing songs that lure the bogles out from their hiding places in time for Alfred to kill it.
Instead of reading the book, I listened to it on audio, narrated by Mandy Williams. I found the audio version done rather well. She created multiple characters all with rather authentic accents, which is very important to this particular story since one of the main themes within the book is class and economic differences and how others, such as policeman, might judge others based on their class or what their accent is or how they might pronounce certain words or phrases.
Another difference between the book and the audio is that Mandy actually sings Birdie’s songs to the bogles. In all honesty, when I was a child I would typically skip over poems or written songs in books and since Birdie’s singing is part of the plot this may be something to consider before you purchase the book. Birdie has several songs in there, but they are not your typical nursery rhyme songs. On the contrary, they may be questionable for the youngest of kids.
Once it gets going, the plot is rather good. However, during the first half of the book Birdie and Alfred basically do their job multiple times. In fact, they performed their jobs enough times that I wondered if kids would get bored with the repetitiveness of it because there didn’t seem to be a clear direction of where the plot was going. I was wrong – it was definitely going somewhere, and the time spent with the repetitive jobs allows us to see each of the characters and their personalities fleshed out more fully.
The target audience for this book is middle-school age children and is at times a bit darker than a typical book for that age. However, it is rather good at showing what it might have been like for the children reading this book if they had been born during this time period. Along the way, we meet several children all in different occupations. Workhouses, slums, unsafe working conditions are all part of these character’s lives. This alone makes How to Catch a Bogle a very valuable teaching tool and history lesson all rolled into one, while being entertaining at the same time.