Friday, April 20, 2012
Another starred review for Emily Arnold McCully, this time for BALLYWHINNEY GIRL in the BULLETIN FOR THE CENTER OF CHILDREN'S BOOKS
This starred review for BALLYWHINNEY GIRL will appear in the May 2012 issue of the BULLETIN FOR THE CENTER OF CHILDREN'S BOOKS:
Bunting, Eve: Ballywhinney Girl; illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully.
Clarion, 2012 32p
ISBN 978-0-547-55843-1 16.99 R* 5-8 yrs
Maeve is out in the Irish bog with her grandfather when, while cutting a strip of peat from the ground, he unearths a body: “Run on home and tell your ma. Tell her to phone the Ballywhinney police.” Having delivered the message, Maeve hustles back to the scene of the assumed crime, but the police recognize at once that this isn’t a murder victim but a mummy. Archaeologists are summoned and the sergeant urges Maeve to go on home, but she’s having none of that. She hangs on the archaeologists’ every word as they suggest Grandpa’s find is probably a girl, about a thousand years old (“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?”). The remains are carefully removed, the police keep the family informed of the whereabouts of the Ballywhinney Girl, and Maeve takes some comfort in the report that the dead child was found to have flowers beside her, “the kind that line the lanes of Ballywhinney.” Seeing the mummy as an object on exhibit in a glass museum case brings Maeve to tears; only when she returns home, sets a rock on the original burial site, and imagines Ballywhinney Girl returning to walk in the moonlight does she bring peaceful closure to the episode. Here Bunting acknowledges children’s strong interest in the mysteries—and grotesqueries—of death, but also credits her young audience with an equally strong sense of awe, respect, and sympathetic imagination. 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. A closing note remarks on other “bog body” discoveries that inform this fictional tale.