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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ballywhinney Girl, written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully. Clarion Books, Thomas Allen & Son. 2012. $18.99 ages 6 and up

"The men from Dublin
placed our mummy in a box,
moving her with care
because her bones
were thin as glass.
That's what they told us.
They packed fat wadding round her
so she could not slide or break."

I just finished reading an interview with Emily Arnold McCully over at and thought I would get right to telling you about this wonderful new book. I was doubly intrigued when I read a summary because it wasn't long ago that I wrote a post about Siobhan Dowd's Bog Child (January 28, 2012). They have much in common.

Ballywhinney Girl tells the tale of the young Irish Maeve. She is with her grandfather while he is digging in the peat bog for fuel for their home fire. He is startled to discover a body. Worried that a crime has been committed he sends his granddaughter with a message for her mother, and to have her call the police. When they arrive the police assure her grandfather that he has unearthed the mummified remains of a child. Archaeologists are summoned and they determine that the body has been there for close to one thousand years! It is some discovery.

They also make the announcement that the young boy found is actually a girl. Maeve becomes more curious about who the girl was, and how she spent her days. Since there is no way of knowing why she was trapped in the bog, there are questions that will never be answered. She worries that finding her and removing her from the site is not the right thing to do. But, the 'Balleywhinney Girl' is taken to Dublin, tested for historical information and put on display in the museum there:

"I wonder, though.

I wonder did she like
her sweet, warm resting place?
And did she like it more
than that cold viewing case
where she will lie
from now until forever?"

Maeve convinces her parents that she wants to see her one last time. Following their return to Ballywhinney, Maeve places a marker so that all will remember where once the young girl had lain. Maeve is a credible narrator, exhibiting shock, wonder and sadness as the story unfolds and leaving readers with a fitting remembrance of a girl who lived long years ago.

Miss McCully's trademark watercolor illustrations match the gentle mood of the telling and give us a close look at the bogs that are found in Ireland and in other soggy countries of the world. The soft edges and soothing colors make a story that might seem quite scary less so. We are front row and center for the discovery, the unearthing and and the final resting place.

In an author's note, Eve Bunting tells about the bog, and its place in the lives of those who live close by. She also provides information about other mummified remains that have been found through the years.

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