Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Ballywhinney Girl by Eve Bunting and Emily Arnold McCully

“A bog is a stretch of wet, spongy land found in places that have heavy rainfall, such as Ireland.  Plants and grasses grow on its surface.  There are mosses in the acidic soil.  Partly decayed trees and plants mash together in the bog to make peat.  The mosses and peat contain natural preservatives, so anything that sinks in the bog decays very slowly.”  Peat is cut into bricklike blocks and used to burn in fireplaces.  Diggers find all sorts of artifacts in the peat bogs, such as primitive weapons, tools and, sometimes, mummified bones and human bodies.  More than eighty mummified bodies have been found in Irish bogs.  Many others have been found in other countries having similar weather and soil conditions.  In most cases these finds have been treated as scientific discoveries.  However, in Ireland with its rich history of storytelling and mysticism, it is likely that a story will grow up around a find. 

Eve Bunting mines her native land again for Ballywhinney Girl, which is beautifully illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully.  When young Maeve and her grandfather discover a mummy in the bog, the whole village is amazed.  The police and the scientists are called in and quickly appropriate the find for investigation and preservation.  As more information about the mummy filters in, Maeve imagines the real girl who roamed the same meadows and lanes Maeve herself does.  We readers can imagine the ghostly elements recounted in a lilting Irish brogue--Wilma Snyder.  (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 2012)

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