While not a ghost or Halloween story, Ballywhinney Girl is nevertheless haunting. Maeve, a fair-haired Irish girl living in Ballywhinney Ireland, is in a bog with her grandfather as he cuts turf. Then Grandpa unearths something--no, someone--a small someone. Shocked, Grandpa assumes it’s a boy, perhaps murdered a hundred years ago. But he and Maeve later learn that it’s the mummified body of a young girl, a thousand years old, maybe more, once fair like Maeve. Maeve feels a strange and strong connection to the bog girl, in a mix of fear, awe, wonder and empathy. What brought her to that spot? How did she die? Beside the girl were flowers, a kind that still bloom in Ballywhinney. Maeve could picture the girl picking the flowers, doing things that she herself would do. So she can’t help but feel protective of the mummy, as scientists, officials, media, neighbors and other spectators converge on the bog, interrupting the peace of the girl’s longtime resting place, in order to investigate the discovery.
Bunting’s flowing, free-verse narrative and McCully’s moody, intricate watercolors detailed capture the eerie events of the story and changing emotions of Maeve as she ponders the fate of the bog girl, her life long ago, and her spirit as well.
Just glimpses of the of the bog body--bony, shriveled and dark, leave readers to rely on the author’s description and their own imagination. For readers who want to see and know more about real bog bodies, there is more information in back of the book.
Thoughtful, evocative, and somewhat spooky, this picture book is best for ages 6-10.
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