Book: Curse of the Boggin (The Library, Book 1)
Author: D.J. MacHale
Age Range: 8-12
Curse of the Boggin is the first book of a spooky new middle grade series by D.J. MacHale. MacHale previously wrote the Pendragon and SYLO series, both of which I enjoyed. With Curse of the Boggin, MacHale introduces a new world, promising a variety of other adventures set in the same world and featuring the same primary characters, but lacking a continuous narrative arc. Curse of the Boggin should be read first, however, as it introduces the world, and the characters.
Curse of the Boggin is the first person story of Marcus, a boy who delights in being a nonconformist, and in standing up to bullies. Marcus has two friends named Annabella Lu and Theo McLean, and a somewhat fraught relationship with his adoptive parents. Marcus's life becomes more challenging when he starts to see things that apparently aren't there. This includes a vision of a man in a bathrobe, who Marcus learns from the newspaper is a recently deceased firefighter from New York City. Marcus sneaks off to the city, learns some unexpected truths about his own background, and acquires the key to a magical library. Danger and wonder follow, in a fast-paced plot that focuses on ghosts and unfinished stories (and an evil boggin).
I was hooked on Curse of the Boggin from the first page. Marcus is a likable character, strong-willed and imperfect but with good instincts. He has a breezy voice that keeps the book from being too scary for kids, even when scary things do happen. And they do - this is a great book for middle grade kids who delight in eerie dangers.
"I didn't have a lot of friends at Stony Brook Middle School. Okay, I had exactly two. Lu and Theo. I wasn't a group guy. The three of us didn't care about being on the "popular" track, which meant you had to wear the same clothes as everyone else and make fun of everyone who didn't conform. We did whatever we wanted because we didn't care what anybody else thought about us. It was total freedom." (Page 19)
I don't know if it can really be that easy in middle school, but I appreciate the sentiment. Here are Marcus, Lu and Theo:
"We were like three different pieces of a very odd puzzle. Between Theo, a black guy who looked as though he should be rubbing elbows at a yacht club; Lu, with her Asian roller-derby-girl look, black tights, plaid shirts, and bold makeup; and me, a white guy who wore the same jeans and T-shirts every day until they were so stiff, they could stand up in the corner, we looked like the cast of some kids' show trying to cover all its ethnic bases. It would be a grand slam if we had a Hispanic friend. Or maybe a Tongan." (Page 36)
And here's the key:
"This key fit into only one lock, but which one? It was definitely something from a long time ago, like the big old door of a castle or a giant pirate's chest. It didn't look as though it would fit anything that was made in this century." (Page 83)
There is a fair bit of illusion to Curse of the Boggin, and young readers will enjoy trying to figure out what is real and what isn't. They may come away from Curse of the Boggin with a fear of something scary bursting out from beneath their beds. But I think that they'll also come away looking forward to future books about The Library. Recommended for fans of supernatural stories and mysteries, and for anyone who appreciates books. Curse of the Boggin is a promising start to what I expect will be a long-running series.
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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