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Boggart, The: Reviewed

Author:Susan Cooper
Reading Level (Conceptual):Children 8 and up
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 8 and up

After reading The Dark Is Rising, I never would have imagined that Susan Cooper was capable of writing a book in which all characters are not either entirely good or entirely evil. And yet, here we meet the Boggart, an Old Thing, whose purpose in the world is to play tricks on people. He never intentionally harms anyone, but he almost always acts impulsively and many of his actions result in chaos at best.

Accidentally exiled from his castle in Scotland, the poor Boggart discovers peanut butter and that playing around with electricity and streetcars in modern-day Toronto can lead to dire (unintended) consequences.

Even the gifts the Boggart bestows on his hosts, ten-year old computer nerd Jessup and his twelve-year old sister, Emily, cause terrific problems.

The Boggart is the story of several families -- some are families by blood, others by community -- separated by miles and in some cases oceans, and by history -- who come to know and cherish each other. Parents, children, actors, friends, and one magical creature draw on prodigious, if often hidden, talents and work together to understand each other as awesome (and often dangerous) supernatural events nearly destroy them.

The depictions of:

  • The rocky but eventually trusting relationship between the siblings,
  • The Gang of Five who are obsessed with writing a computer game,
  • The dilemma of parents who are concerned that perhaps their children are possessed (most parents must believe that sometimes) and that their children's friends might not be the most upstanding citizens,
  • The life of an old-fashioned gentleman who lives on a remote island in a remote community in Scotland,
  • The hard work of a regional acting company, and
  • The interesting character of the Boggart, who really does love his humans, even as he schemes to come up with more annoying tricks to play on them,
are truly delightful.

Note: The limitations of the personal computers that existed when this book was written play a significant part in the story. And for that reason, the fact that the author's descriptions of how computer operating systems work are a bit off deflated the story a little for me. If I were to make a movie of this book (and I think it would make a fantastic one), a slight change in a couple of the nouns would resolve this issue.

Highly recommended.

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Other reviews: Boggart, The
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