Bog Child and Breast Cancer Awareness

October 25th, 2010

Sometimes you come across a book that grabs you and holds you from the first page until the last. Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd, winner of the Carnegie Medal in Literature in 2009, is one of these books.  One of the many wonderful books available in the IU East Campus Library’s Young Adult collection, this beautifully written novel captures two times in one place. It is set in Northern Ireland in 1981, during the violence and upheaval known as “The Troubles.” Fergus McCann is struggling to finish his exams and plan for his future, but finds himself continually distracted by the chaos around him. His older brother joins a prison Hunger Strike and Fergus struggles to understand his own place in the conflict. He befriends a soldier who should be his enemy but still feels connected to those who fight for freedom. While out in the countryside, Fergus discovers a well preserved body from the Iron Age, a “bog person,” and becomes fascinated by her untold story. The novel weaves together the story of Fergus and the story of the ancient Mel. The novel’s themes include family, love, conscience, grief, history, conflict, homeland, sacrifice, death, and, most importantly, life.

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The novel asks tough questions without forcing answers. As his brother starves himself and he ponders the bog child’s cruel death, Fergus wonders what sacrifice means and when it is too much. He asks questions about hatred and violence, about planning for the future and failing to understand the complex past. The novel is beautifully hopeful and leaves the reader uplifted and looking forward. Fergus is consistently likable and the heaviness of the content is interspersed with comedy, joy, and friendship.

The author of this gem, Siobhan Dowd, died of breast cancer just a couple of months after finishing the novel. She was born in England to Irish parents and also lived in the United States for a time. She wrote three novels before this one and was an active member of PEN, an organization working to eliminate censorship and support writers whose works put them in danger. She also worked to bring authors into schools and encouraged children to read. It is heartbreaking that there will not be another Siobhan Dowd novel, but the literature she left behind is truly a gift.

As we come near the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it seems appropriate to recognize Siobhan Dowd for her incredible fiction and important role in the literary world. While great strides have been made in the fight to cure breast cancer, it still takes many lives, and it is important that we all help in the struggle to find a cure.

Bog Child and one of Dowd’s other novels, A Swift Pure Cry, are available in the library’s Young Adult collection.  IU East Campus Library also owns many other winners of the Carnegie Medal in Literature, including this year’s winner, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. So, if you’re looking for a good book, come by and browse our collection.  Just look for the yellow YA stickers! There are treasures to be unearthed.

For more on Breast Cancer Awareness:

http://ww5.komen.org/

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Carnegie Award Winners Available in our library!

2010 Neil Gaiman The Graveyard Book Bloomsbury             PZ7.G1273 G8 2008

2009 Siobhan Dowd Bog Child David Fickling Books             PZ7.D7538 B64 2008

2008 Philip Reeve Here Lies Arthur Scholastic                      PZ7.R25576 H4 2008

2007 Meg Rosoff Just in Case Penguin                                    PZ7.R71957 J87 2006

2005 Mal Peet Tamar Walker Books                                        PZ7.P3564 T36 2007

2002 Sharon Creech Ruby Holler Bloomsbury                       PZ7.C8615 R8 2002

1995 Philip Pullman His Dark Materials: Book 1 Northern Lights Scholastic PR6066.U44 G65 1995