Ballywhinney Girl

Ballywhinney Girl

by Eve Bunting, Emily Arnold McCully
     
 

A young girl witnesses the discovery of the mummified body of another girl in an Irish bog and feels a strong connection to this unknown being from the past.

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Overview

A young girl witnesses the discovery of the mummified body of another girl in an Irish bog and feels a strong connection to this unknown being from the past.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a haunting outing that treads on perhaps even more chilling turf than Bunting and McCully’s previous collaboration, The Banshee (2009), the author whisks readers to the expansive countryside of her native Ireland. It’s there, in a peat bog, that young Maeve and her grandfather make a startling discovery: the ancient mummified remains of a girl. Drama and suspense dovetail as the family and authorities follow procedures and come to grips with the significance of what they’ve found. “I wasn’t sure exactly how I felt,” Maeve thinks. “There was fear/ and curiosity,/ but there was more./ Something I could not/ put my name to.” McCully’s watercolor-and-ink compositions offer a front-row seat to the proceedings, though readers get just a few glimpses of the mummy. Maeve’s delicately drawn face tells a tale all its own, filled with shock, concern, and sadness as she explores the connection she feels to the mummified girl. Though not for sensitive children, this memento mori has much to offer readers who are up to the challenge. An afterword provides information on the (fictional) story’s real-life inspiration. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"There is drama from the first page of this moving picture book."—Booklist

"The tender, gently elegiac rone renders this far more than a picture of how such finds happen."—Horn Book

"An evocative story in verse."—School Library Journal

"Maeve's voice and the natural flow of dialogue make this a pleasure to read aloud, and McCully's watercolor scenes capture a placid landscape and cozy home suddenly jolted from the quotidian into the extraordinary."—Bulletin, starred review

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Young Maeve tells of the shock when she and her grandfather find a body buried in the bog where they are cutting peat. Her mother calls the Ballywhinney police, who declare that they have found a mummy "preserved in peat for centuries." When archeologists arrive to investigate, they say it is a girl. Taking her away for testing, they promise to tell Maeve and her grandfather what they discover. Maeve identifies with the girl that she senses is much like her, and wonders how she feels about being on display in the museum. After going to see her there, Maeve wants to cry. She sets a flat rock on the place where the girl was found, says goodbye to her, but imagines that the girl may still walk there at night carrying her flowers. McCully's atmospheric watercolor and pen and ink scene on the jacket, with its misty dark greens and cloud-shrouded full moon, sets the emotional tone. Naturalistic characters and scrubby landscape maintain the low-key visuals with the first person narrative. The text is set in vertical columns with few words per line; the effect is like free verse as verbalized by the youthful Maeve. A note adds information about the peat bogs and what has been discovered in them. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 1–4—An evocative story in verse narrated by a young girl who witnesses the unearthing of a centuries-old mummified girl in a bog in Ballywhinney, Ireland. The muted green and blue hues and smudgy effects of the watercolor illustrations complement the marshy setting, while the lyrical narrative sets the melancholy tone. Frequent use of dialogue with sprinklings of Irish vernacular ("Jakers!") brings the story to life. Readers will easily relate to Maeve, who, determined to be a part of the discovery, emphasizes to a policeman that she and her grandfather were responsible for the find, not the archaeologists who showed up soon after. Visible paint strokes expertly convey Maeve's feelings of curiosity, confusion, and sorrow as she watches scientists uproot the body amid a media frenzy. The images of the mummy are subtlely handled; readers catch a few glimpses of arms, legs, a face, and finally the body itself in a museum exhibit. However, Maeve's musings about whether the Ballywhinney girl is content to be on display and references to her "dark, dead face" may still be upsetting to sensitive readers. Depictions of what the girl may have looked like when she was alive, paired with Bunting's haunting text, humanize her and let the story end on a more positive note. An afterword provides information about the Irish wetlands where actual ancient bodies have been dug up. A perceptive portrayal of a potentially disturbing subject.—Mahnaz Dar, formerly at Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City
Kirkus Reviews
Maeve and her grandpa find an Irish bog mummy when they are out cutting peat. Young Maeve narrates the story in free verse that incorporates dialogue. The dialect is lyrical and captures the astonishment of the girl and her grandfather, who first believe they have found a murdered child, followed by awe when they are told it is a mummy: "I gasped. / A girl! / A girl like me, a thousand years ago / dead and dropped into this quiet place. / Who was she? / What had happened?" Despite a promise from the archaeologists to share all they learn, Maeve is uneasy when they take the mummy from the site. A police sergeant later visits, providing an update with scanty details about the mummy, belying the abilities of modern archaeological techniques and possibly disappointing youngsters excited to learn about the past. Enough information is presented so that Maeve identifies even more closely with the long-ago girl, increasing her ambivalence about the discovery. Indeed Bunting, in an afterword, recounts the history of finds, stating that while some were handled with respect, others were treated as curiosities. McCully uses watercolor with pen and ink to create a moody landscape that reflects Maeve's musings, including her final, fanciful vision of the girl walking on the bog. To balance this perspective, pair this with Mummies, Bones, and Body Parts, by Charlotte Wilcox (2000). (Picture book. 6-10)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547558431
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
03/06/2012
Pages:
32
Sales rank:
915,411
Product dimensions:
8.70(w) x 11.10(h) x 0.30(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"There is drama from the first page of this moving picture book."—Booklist

"The tender, gently elegiac rone renders this far more than a picture of how such finds happen."—Horn Book

"An evocative story in verse."—School Library Journal

"Maeve's voice and the natural flow of dialogue make this a pleasure to read aloud, and McCully's watercolor scenes capture a placid landscape and cozy home suddenly jolted from the quotidian into the extraordinary."—Bulletin, starred review

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