Monday, June 30, 2014

A very peculiar plague by Catherine Jinks

As I lifted my head late into the night (last night) I sighed with happiness.  A very peculiar plague is the second installment in the City of Orphans series and it more than fulfills the promise of the first.

Once again Catherine Jinks takes her reader into a wonderful and murky world of London in the late 1800s. You should read the first installment - I did highly recommend it! - before joining Birdie, Jem, Alfred Bunce and Miss Edith Eames as they face a series of hideous bogles once again.

As the title suggests it does seem that there is a plague.  Alfred and Jem dispense of one monster only to be confronted by another sometimes on the same day.  Jem is the new 'prentice now that Birdie has moved in with Miss Eames.  The method of disposing of these monsters has not changed.  Alfred draws a ring of salt with a gap where the bogle will enter. Jem, as Birdie before him, acts as a lure by singing and holding a small mirror so he can see a signal from Alfred that it is time to jump away.

Perhaps you are curious about these creatures :

"Jem suddenly noticed that the bogle was starting to encircle him; it had slid through the gap in the ring of salt and now, on the floor at his feet, two viscous arms were flowing towards each other like channels of sludge, one from the left and one from the right."

"The body attached to the arms was a great, hairy bladder, popped up on legs like a toad's and crowned by a head bigger than a bull's ... Its snout was long, with flaring red nostrils and a double row of huge, dripping, steely fangs.  Its eyes were on fire."

"It had a misshapen lump of a head, pierced by several deep, dark holes that might have been eyes, or mouths, or ears; Jem couldn't tell.  Its limbs were blunted stumps, which would suddenly erupt from unlikely spots on its torso before dissolving back again."

Moments after Alfred disposes of this last bogle, another appears and it almost devours Jem but even worse horrors are close by.  Jem has been searching for Sarah Pickles but finding her and her daughter means he will become tangled with John Gammon better known as Salty Jack, a notorious and brutal criminal.  The scene where Jem is captured by this despicable pair made me gasp out loud.

I like to think this series would be a terrific way to introduce Charles Dickens to children and this year with our Connect to Reading slogan for Book Week I plan make parcels of books - one of which will contain books from this series and a couple of our simpler editions of Dickens classics.

High School readers might like to follow this book by reading Mama's Babies by Gary Crew.

Once again this book has an excellent glossary and a cast of very colourful characters with brilliant names such as Josiah Lubbock, Mabel Lillimere and Erasmus Gilfoyle.  To tempt you into the third installment a generous sneak preview is included too.

You might like to visit the author web site.  Once again the US edition of this book will have a different title - A plague of Bogles.   You might like to read this detailed review and this one too.

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