20 May, 2014

Book Review: A Very Unusual Pursuit

From Goodreads: Monsters have been infesting London's dark places for centuries, eating every child who gets too close. That's why ten-year-old Birdie McAdam works for Alfred Bunce, the bogler. With her beautiful voice and dainty looks, Birdie is the bait that draws bogles from their lairs so that Alfred can kill them.One life-changing day, Alfred and Birdie are approached by two very different women. Sarah Pickles runs a local gang of pickpockets, three of whom have disappeared. Edith Eames is an educated lady who's studying the mythical beasts of English folklore. Both of them threaten the only life Birdie's ever known.But Birdie soon realises she needs Miss Eames's help, to save her master, defeat Sarah Pickles, and vanquish an altogether nastier villain.Catherine Jinks, one of Australia's most inventive writers, has created a fast-paced and enthralling adventure story with edge-of-your-seat excitement and chills.

Thoughts: A Very Unusual Pursuit (which has also been published under the title How to Catch a Bogle) is the third of the Children's Book Council short listed younger readers books for 2014.
Birdie's sweet, pure voice makes her the perfect apprentice for Alfred, the Bodger. It's Birdie's job to stand in an incomplete circle of salt and sing to lur out the child eating bogle so Alfred can kill it. It's a respectable profession and preferrable to the alternatives of mudlarking or the work house.
Set in the Victorian era, Jinks exposes her reader to a fairly historically accurate (apart from child eating bogles - but then again, who really knows!) picture of the era. The description of life for those less fortunate and their choices could lead to some great discussion with kids.
I've been a fan of Jinks for quite a few years now, especially liking her Pagan's Crusade series. She writes really interesting and believable characters, including the adults who I often find become two dimensional figures in children's books - almost fringe dwellers or very stereotypical. Jinks' adults are varied and real. This is one series where I will be searching for the next book.