Bog Child

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Bog Child
Bog Child.JPG
Front cover of first edition
AuthorSiobhan Dowd
Cover artistKamil Vojnar
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreChildren's historical novel, mystery
PublisherDavid Fickling (UK, US)
Publication date
9 September 2008
Media typePrint (hardcover & paperback)
Pages321 pp (first edition)
LC ClassPZ7.D7538 Bog 2008[1]

Bog Child is a historical novel by Siobhan Dowd published by David Fickling in September 2008, more than a year after her death.[2] Set in the 1980s amid the backdrop of the Troubles of Northern Ireland, it features an 18-year-old boy who must study for exams but experiences "his imprisoned brother's hunger strike, the stress of being a courier for the provisional IRA, and dreams of a murdered girl whose body he discovered in a bog."[1] In flashback and dream there are elements of the murdered girl's prehistoric or protohistoric life and death.

Dowd and Bog Child were named winners of the annual Carnegie Medal, recognising the year's best children's book published in the U.K.[3][4][5]

Plot summary[edit]

The novel is set in the 1980s. Fergus McCann and Uncle Tally find a bog body of a small girl near the Ireland-UK border. At the same time, Fergus is studying for his A-levels. He makes friends with Owain, one of the border guards, during one of his morning runs across the border. He opens many conversations with Owain. When he goes back to the site of the bog child, Fergus meets Cora and Felicity O'Brien, a girl his age and her archaeologist mother. Fergus named the bog body "Mel". He goes to Long Kesh prison with his mother to meet his brother, Joe, who has been incarcerated as a prisoner because of his involvement with the Irish Republican Army.

He has joined his friends on a hunger strike. After lifting Mel's body from the site, the excavation team, including Fergus and Cora, find that Mel has a noose around her neck. A flashback shows Mel and her family struggling to meet loan repayments. Fergus was asked by Michael Rafters to ferry packets across the border in an attempt to end his brother's hunger strike. Fergus and Cora share their accidental first kiss but begin dating afterwards. After his final A-level exam, physics, Fergus and his family visit his brother in prison to find him gaunt-looking. He gets drunk and dreams about Mel talking to Rur, her love interest. When he wakes up, Cora informs him that Mel was a dwarf. Fergus allows Cora and her mother to stay over at his place due to an appointment with a professor about Mel.

Radiocarbon dating reveals that Mel lived around AD 80. After a bombing is shown on the news, Fergus begins to suspect the packets he has been ferrying. He opens them in front of Owain to see condoms and contraceptive pills. Joe falls into a coma after 50 days of fasting. After a heated argument between Fergus and his parents they agree to put him on the drip. Through a series of dreams, Fergus sees the events leading to Mel's death with Rur stabbing her at her request because she did not want to "feel the noose" around her neck. It is also found out at the end that Fergus' Uncle Tally actually is a local bomb-maker, nicknamed Deus, meaning god, and was killed after resisting arrest. Right after this Fergus went off to medicine school to complete his studies.


Dowd says that her inspiration for the book was the 1981 Irish hunger strike.[6] She says that BBC's Timewatch was an "inspirational programme on recent discoveries of bog people in Ireland".[6] She also mentions "the classic The Bog People: Iron Age Man Preserved by P. V. Glob" in the same context.[6]

Reception[edit] picked Bog Child as one of the "Best Books of 2008".[7] Bog Child was longlisted for the 2008 Guardian Award.[8] It won the 2009 Carnegie Medal.[9] It was listed as one of Publishers Weekly's Best Book of the Year for the children's fiction category in 2008. It was listed by Kirkus Reviews as one of the best young adult books of 2008.[10] It was listed as one of Edgar Award's best young adult novel in 2009.[11]

In review for The Guardian, Meg Rosoff commends Dowd for being "incapable of a jarring phrase or a lazy metaphor. Her sentences sing; each note resonates with an urgent humanity of the sort that cannot be faked."[12] Nicolette Jones from The Times comments that the book is "psychologically and historically convincing, showing the impact of politics on domestic life".[13] Booktrust Children's Books commends Fergus for being "an immensely likeable character whose story, along with that of the bog child, will long stay with those who read it".[14] In retrospect Rosoff observed, "it is, for me, clearly a book written by a dying woman. ... [about] how her voice comes back from beyond the grave."[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Bog child" (first U.S. edition). Library of Congress Catalog Record. Retrieved 2012-07-29.
  2. ^ "Bog Child (Kindle Edition)". Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  3. ^ Carnegie Winner 2009. Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  4. ^ "Writer’s final words receive lasting accolade: Siobhan Dowd wins posthumous CILIP Carnegie Medal" Archived 20 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Press release 25 June 2009. CILIP. Retrieved 2012-11-06.
  5. ^ Eccleshare, Julia (25 June 2009). "Dowd, Rayner Win Carnegie and Greenaway Medals". Publisher's Weekly.
  6. ^ a b c Dowd, Siobhan (10 July 2007). "Author's note". Bog Child. David Fickling Books. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-385-61431-3.
  7. ^ "Best Books of 2008". Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  8. ^ Armitstead, Claire (23 May 2008). "Longlist announced for Guardian Children's Fiction award". Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  9. ^ "The CILIP Carnegie Medal Shortlist for 2009". CBI Book of the Year Awards. Archived from the original on 22 February 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  10. ^ "The Best Young Adult Book of 2008" (PDF). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 20 June 2009.[dead link]
  11. ^ "2009 Edgar Nominees". Edgar Award. Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  12. ^ Rosoff, Meg (8 March 2008). "Song of the earth". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  13. ^ Jones, Nicolette (3 February 2008). "Bog child by Siobhan Dowd". London: The Times. Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  14. ^ "Bog Child By Siobhan Dowd". Booktrust Children's Books. Archived from the original on 17 May 2010. Retrieved 2009-06-20.
  15. ^ Stanford, Peter (23 March 2008). "Siobhan Dowd: A shining talent who tragically ran out of time: ... fellow authors and friends remember the shining talent". The Independent. Retrieved 20 June 2009.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Here Lies Arthur
Carnegie Medal recipient
Succeeded by
The Graveyard Book