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How to Catch a Bogle

How to Catch a Bogle

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by Catherine Jinks, Sarah Watts

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If ever a chill entered her soul, or the hope suddenly drained from her heart, she knew a bogle was to blame.

Birdie McAdam, a ten-year-old orphan, is tougher than she looks. She's proud of her job as apprentice to Alfred the Bogler, a man who catches monsters for a living. Birdie lures the bogles out of their lairs with her sweet songs, and Alfred


If ever a chill entered her soul, or the hope suddenly drained from her heart, she knew a bogle was to blame.

Birdie McAdam, a ten-year-old orphan, is tougher than she looks. She's proud of her job as apprentice to Alfred the Bogler, a man who catches monsters for a living. Birdie lures the bogles out of their lairs with her sweet songs, and Alfred kills them before they kill her. On the mean streets of Victorian England, hunting bogles is actually less dangerous work than mudlarking for scraps along the vile river Thames. (See glossary!) Or so it seems—until the orphans of London start to disappear . . .

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Christine Kenneally
The book, which is part Great Expectations, part Ghostbusters and a little bit Vindication of the Rights of Woman, mixes monster murder with work ethics and the importance of a girl being able to make a living for herself…For all its grime, Jinks's world is rich…There is ugliness here, but there's power, too; it's a taste of life without an adult to look after you, and perhaps for adults, it's a chance to urge their children down a quiet alley, where the air palls, the shadows twitch and an odd black smoke has only just this moment begun to bubble up from a dark hole—but in a good way.
Publishers Weekly
Orphan Birdie McAdam, age 10, is apprenticed to Alfred the Bogler, who uses Birdie’s angelic singing voice to lure monsters out of their hiding spots in sewer pipes or fire grates, then kills them with Finn MacCool’s spear before they can kill Birdie. As risky as that sounds, Birdie loves her job, and she feels threatened when Miss Eames, an academic studying English folklore, starts accompanying Alfred and Birdie on their rounds and points out that Birdie’s occupation makes other Dickensian-era job opportunities for children seem positively wholesome by comparison. This is top-notch storytelling from Jinks (the Evil Genius series), full of wit, a colorful cast of rogues, and delectable slang. The tension-fueled plot moves forward on two tracks as Birdie and Alfred face increasingly perilous confrontations with a variety of monsters, and Miss Eames makes Birdie an irresistible offer—music lessons and a place in her comfortable home instead of near-certain death. What will loyal Birdie do? Prepare to wait to find out—this installment is the first in a projected trilogy. Ages 9–12. Author’s agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. Illustrator’s agent: Abigail Samoun, Red Fox Literary. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"Jinks opens her projected trilogy in high style, offering a period melodrama replete with colorful characters, narrow squeaks and explosions of ectoplasmic goo."
Kirkus, starred review

"This is top-notch storytelling from Jinks, full of wit, a colorful cast of rogues, and delectable slang."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"[A] pitch-perfect narrative. . . This intense historical thriller is rewarding on its own, but A Plague of Bogles is scheduled to arrive next fall."
Booklist, starred review

"The book, which is part Great Expectations, part Ghostbusters and a little bit Vindication of the Rights of Woman, mixes monster murder with work ethics and the importance of a girl being able to make a living for herself . . . For all its grime, Jinks’s world is rich."
The New York Times

"The first in a projected trilogy, this book treats readers to a lively, engaging story with an endearing protagonist at its center."
School Library Journal

"This quasi-Victorian, somewhat gothic fantasy is a satisfying confection."
The Horn Book Magazine

"The first entry in a planned trilogy, this title introduces a cast of secondary characters robust enough to expand the adventures in any direction Jinks chooses to wander."
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
There is nothing more engaging and more fun than a rollicking, good ghost story, and Catherine Jinks has created a near perfect example for middle readers. What is especially noteworthy with this book is that it is fantasy cleanly written, with just enough characters to run the plot, but not so many that you need a chart to keep them straight. The story line, as well, is straight and easy to follow without the circuitous routes so common in the post-Harry Potter school of fantasy books. Birdie McAdams is a bogler's girl, an apprentice to an elderly spook catcher. Her job is to lure, with lurid country songs sung in a lyric voice, child-eating creatures from England's wells and chimneys so that they can be rapidly dispersed by her employer, Alfred Bunce with Finn McCool's spear. Enter Miss Eames, a spinster academic who thinks that there is a scientific method to catch bogles without endangering the young bait. At first, Birdie is resentful of Miss Eames, seeing only her attempt to do the girl out of a job she loves. As the book progresses, a bond forms and Miss Eames reveals her worth as a scientist, savior, and a daring soul. However, a villain lurks in the background, and he is not a supernatural ghoul but a mad doctor who wants to capture a demon (a bogle will do) and turn him to his own evil deeds. Birdie is a terrific heroine, complex in that she clings to her old life as sad and wretched as it is, because change—even change for the better—is scarier than ghouls. Alfred evolves from a low bred hustler to someone who cares in a grandfatherly way about his latest apprentice, Birdie. British words are explained in a glossary. A ripping good book! Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—As a bogler's apprentice, 10-year-old Birdie has faced down plenty of monsters lurking in the chimneys, wells, and other dark places of Victorian London. She serves as bait, singing sweetly to lure the bogles out so her master, the well-seasoned Go-Devil Man Alfred Bunce, can kill them with his trusty spear. Enter the wealthy folklorist Miss Eames, who is determined to find more scientific ways of drawing out the monsters, and Birdie fears that her livelihood may be threatened by the well-meaning lady. Meanwhile, orphans are disappearing and a bogle is suspected, but Alfred and Birdie discover something even more sinister at work. The first in a projected trilogy, this book treats readers to a lively, engaging story with an endearing protagonist at its center. Capable, forthright, and street-wise, Birdie fairly leaps off the page with pluck, intelligence, and courage. Historical details are woven in to ensure that readers are firmly ensconced in Victorian London, where bogles may be waiting to snatch unsuspecting children, but they are certainly not the only danger to be had. The well-paced story builds to an exciting climax as each bogle encounter raises the stakes and Birdie and Alfred face a decision that will change their lives. While this particular adventure is wrapped up nicely, readers will be delighted that the stage is set for future bogling exploits.—Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL
Kirkus Reviews
Child-eating bogles infest Victorian London, providing work aplenty for "Go-Devil Man" Alfred Bunce and his intrepid young apprentice, Birdie. Singing morbid verses from popular ballads in her angelic voice to draw the shadowy creatures out of their chimneys, sewers or other lairs so that Alfred can stab them with his special lance, Birdie thinks she has "the best job in the world" despite the risk--she could be snatched and eaten if the timing is even a little off. Alas, the idyll doesn't survive a double set of complications. First, unctuous would-be warlock Roswell Morton, out to capture one of the monsters for his own evil uses, kidnaps her and plants her in an insane asylum to force Alfred's cooperation. Second are the unwanted but, as it turns out, saving attentions of Miss Edith Eames, a self-described "folklorist." Her naïveté about London's nastier stews conceals both a quick wit and a fixed determination to see Birdie cleaned up and educated in the social graces. The tale is set in a range of locales, most of them noxious and well-stocked with rousingly scary hobgoblins as well as a cast of colorful Londoners with Dickensian names like Sally Pickles and Ned Roach. It dashes along smartly to a suspenseful climactic kerfuffle as it endears its 10-year-old protagonist, whose temper is matched only by her courage in the clutch, to readers. Jinks opens her projected trilogy in high style, offering a period melodrama replete with colorful characters, narrow squeaks and explosions of ectoplasmic goo. (glossary of slang and monster types) (Historical fantasy. 10-13)

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
How to Catch a Bogle , #1
Sold by:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Sales rank:
File size:
10 MB
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

London, England, c. 1870 

Two Missing Boys                                     
The front door was painted black, with a shiny brass knocker that made a satisfying noise when Alfred used it.                     
   Birdie spied a lace curtain twitching in the drawing room window.                                                                                          
   “Someone’s at home,” she remarked. Alfred said nothing. He looked tired after their long walk—but then again he always looked tired. His gray mustache drooped. His shoulders were bent. His brown eyes sagged at the corners under his wide, floppy hat brim.                                                             
   Suddenly the door was flung open. a housemaid in a  white cap peered at them suspiciously, her gaze lingering on Alfred’s frayed canvas trousers and baggy green coat. “Yes?” she asked. “What’s yer business?”
   Alfred removed his hat. “The name is Bunce,” he replied in his gravelly voice. “I came here on account of I were sent for.”
   “Sent for?” The housemaid echoed.
   “A Miss Ellen Meggs sent for me, by passing word through Tom Cobbings.”
    “Oh!” The housemaid put a hand to her mouth. “Are you the Go-devil Man?”
   “The bogler. Aye.”
   “And I’m Birdie. I’m the ’prentice.” Because Birdie was very small and thin and pale, she was often ignored. So she liked to wear the most colorful clothes she could find. This summer her dress was a dull cotton drab, but she had added a little cape made of yellow satin, very soiled and creased, and there were red feathers on her battered straw hat.
   Stepping out of her master’s shadow, she beamed up at the housemaid, eager to make friends. The housemaid, however, was too flustered to notice Birdie.
   “Oh, why did you knock on this door?” she lamented.
   “The hawker’s door is down by the coal  hole! Come in
   quick, afore the neighbors see you both.” Hustling Alfred and Birdie across the threshold, she slammed the door and said, “I’m Ellen Meggs. I’m the one as sent for you. My mistress knows nothing o’ this, nor won’t neither, if I have my way.”                                                                                                        
   “Ain’t she in?” Birdie asked shrewdly, glancing through the door to her left. It opened off a handsome entrance hall that Birdie thought finer than anything she had ever seen in her life—a lofty space with carpet on the stairs and paper on the walls and a bronze statue in one corner. The cedar joinery gleamed, and the air smelled of lemon. But there was a broom propped against the hat stand. And through the door that she’d spotted, Birdie could make out furniture swathed in dust sheets.                                                      
   “Mrs. Plumeridge is at the seaside for her health,” Ellen replied. “Oh, but there’s other old cats across the way  that never leave their parlor windows, and they’ll have seen you come in, sure as eggs!” She stamped her foot in frustration, her round, pink face growing even pinker under its frizz of sandy hair.                                                                                   
   Alfred sighed. His shoulders were slumped beneath the weight of his sack, which he never let his apprentice carry, no matter how desperately she pleaded. “What’s yer particulars, Miss Meggs?” He inquired. “Tom Cobbings had none to give, save for yer name and where I’d find you. Is there a bogle in this house?”                                                                              
   Ellen opened her mouth, then hesitated. Her gaze had fallen on Birdie, whose blue eyes, freckled nose, and flyaway curls looked as delicate as fine china. Birdie knew exactly what the housemaid was thinking, because everyone always thought the same thing.
   Only Alfred understood that Birdie was a heroine, brave and quick and valiant.
   “I ain’t afeared o’ bogles, Miss Meggs,” Birdie announced. “Though I’m only ten years old, I’ve helped bring down many a one. Ain’t that so, Mr. Bunce?”
   “Aye, but we’ve heard enough from you, lass.” Alfred was growing impatient. Birdie could tell by the way he shifted from one ill-shod foot to the other. “What’s yer particulars, Miss Meggs?” he repeated. “Who gave you me nam?”
   “A friend,” Ellen answered. “She’s Scotch but lives here in London. She said you got rid of a worricow, or some such thing, as lived in a coal hole in Hackney and took a little shoe binder’s child.” she threw him a questioning glance. When Alfred nodded, she continued hastily. “Hearing that made me wonder about the chimney sweep’s boys. For we’ve lost two in the past month, and I cannot believe they both ran away.” By now she was anxiously fiddling with her apron, crushing it between her restless hands, then smoothing it out again. “In the Dane Hills, where my Ma were raised, a creature they called Black Annis used to eat children. And would tan their skins for its adornment, or so i’ve heard-”      “Tell me about the sweep’s boys,” Alfred interrupted. “They went missing, you say?”                                                            
   “From this house,” Ellen assured him solemnly. “They disappeared up the dining room chimney, and no one’s seen ’em since.”                                                                                       
   “Perhaps they’re stuck,” Birdie proposed. She knew that sweep’s boys often became wedged in chimneys, where they sometimes died.                                                                               
   “No.” Ellen shook her head. “That chimney draws as well as it ever did, and there’s been no stink.” Lowering her voice, she added, “The sweep told me them boys must have climbed to the rooftops and run away. they do that sometimes, he said. But he won’t come back, which is strange. And I’ll not send for another sweep, no matter what the mistress wants. Not if there’s a bad’un up there.”                               
   “We’ll find out soon enough,” Alfred assured her. Then he raised the subject of his fee. “It’ll be fivepence for the visit and six shillings a bogle, with the cost o’ the salt on top. Did Tom mention that?”                                                         
   The housemaid gave a grunt. she seemed resigned to the expense, which wasn’t unreasonable. “Ma’s paying,” she admitted. “She won’t have me in any house that’s bedeviled, but this is a good situation. If I’m to stay, I must stump up, for Mrs. Plumeridge never will. Mrs. Plumeridge don’t believe in bogles or the like. No, not even white ladies.”                                                                                                  
   She  stopped  for  a  moment  to  draw  breath,  giving Birdie a chance to inform her that the first fivepence had to be paid in advance. It was Birdie’s job to ask, because Alfred often forgot. Once Ellen had agreed to these terms, they all trooped into the dining room, which opened off the hall. It was a very dark room, with maroon walls and a thick Axminster carpet. But the white dust sheets on the tables, chairs, and sideboard lightened the atmosphere a little—as did the muslin roses in the fireplace.
   Ellen pointed at these roses, saying, “Mrs. Plumeridge dines in here only at Christmas, or when her nephew comes, for she likes to eat off trays. so we rarely light a fire in this room.”
   “Then why clean the chimney?” It seemed like a foolish extravagance to Birdie, who was finding it hard enough to understand why one person would want so many rooms, let alone so many fireplaces.
   Ellen explained that her mistress, who was “very particular,” had a morbid fear of rats’ nests in her unused chimneys. Meanwhile, Alfred was examining the marble mantelpiece and shiny steel grate. “Have you lit a fire in here since the boys vanished?” he asked Ellen gruffly.
   “Only once, to see if it would draw.”
   “Did it smoke?”
   “You’ve smelled nothing? Seen no strange marks, no heard any peculiar noises?
   Ellen thought hard for a moment. Finally she said, “No.”                                                                                          
   It was Alfred’s turn to grunt. then he surveyed the room, frowning, and told her in an undertone, “We must move that table. and the chairs.”                                                             
   “Oh, but—”                                                                             
   “Else I’ll catch nothing, and you’ll have wasted yer five pence.”                                                                                                     
   So Ellen helped Afred to shift the table, while Birdie moved the chairs. All the furniture was extremely heavy. After a generous space had been cleared in front of the fireplace, Ellen went downstairs to fetch Alfred’s fee, leaving him to make his preparations.                                                                 
   First he rolled up the carpet until a wide expanse of parquet floor was showing. Then he took a bag of salt from his sack and traced a large circle on the ground. But the circle wasn’t perfect; he left a small break in its smooth line just opposite the hearthstone.                                                                  
   When  Ellen  returned,  he  was carefully  unwrapping a short staff, which had a sharp end like a spearhead. On catching sight of it, the housemaid blanched.                                         
   “Oh, you’ll not be making a mess in here?” she exclaimed. “I’ll lose my place if you do!”                                                        
   Alfred put a finger to his lips. Birdie, who was by the door, took Ellen’s arm and nudged her into the hall, saying, “there’s a puddle or two on occasion, but nothing to fret about.”
   “Oh dear . . .”
   “And you must air the room after. And if you stay to watch, you must keep to the hall, quiet as a mouse.” Though Birdie spoke with confidence, in a calm and steady voice, her stomach was starting to knot and her heart to pound. These familiar symptoms overtook her before every job. But she had learned to ignore them. “And the door must stand open,” she finished. “Open and clear. Whatever you do, don’t shut the door—else how shall I escape when the time comes?”
   By this time Ellen was wringing her hands. “Must I stay?” she whimpered.
   “No. Some like to, on account of they don’t trust us and think we’re running a caper.” Birdie grinned suddenly, recalling one man who’d paid for his suspicions with a bump on the head. He’d fallen over in a dead faint and had afterward sicked up all his tea. “Once they see the bogle, they soon change their tune,” she remarked, “Though they’re in no great danger.”
   “I’ll stand clear,” said Ellen. “Beside the front door.”
   Birdie inclined her head.
   “With a poker,” Ellen added. Birdie didn’t tell her that a poker would have little effect on a monster, because she knew that Ellen wouldn’t need to defend herself. No customer ever had, and none ever would. Not while Alfred was in charge. Not while Birdie was his apprentice.
   “There’s nothing to fear,” she insisted, patting the older girl’s apron bow. “Why, it’s no more’n catching a rat. For there’s rats as big as bogles where I come from, and they ain’t never eaten us yet!”
   Then Birdie laughed gaily, and took Ellen’s fivepence, and went to help Alfred bait his trap.


Meet the Author

Catherine Jinks, winner of a Centenary Medal for her contribution to Australian childrens literature, is the author of many books for children of all ages, including the acclaimed Evil Genius trilogy. She lives with her family in New South Wales, Australia. Visit her website at

Catherine Jinks grew up in Papua New Guinea and now resides in New South Wales, Australia. She is a three-time winner of the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year award and has received the Centenary Medal for her contribution to Australian children's literature. Her popular works for young readers include the Evil Genius series, The Reformed Vampire Support Group, and the trilogy that began with How to Catch a Bogle.
Visit her website at

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