Ideas for the Classroom
Teens reading Bog Child in America will need additional discussion of the dialect from Ireland. For example, Fergus wears “trainers” not sneakers, and he calls his mother and father “mam” and “da.” A basic discussion of Ireland's location, topography, and basic history will also help students to understand the novel better.
Students will need to know basic information about the Irish “Troubles” in the 1980’s. In addition, there is some language and excessive drinking of alcohol. Fergus and Cora’s sexual relationship is handled with sensitivity, but never the less it is in the novel. Plus, Fergus struggles with religion and his belief in God. In addition, his family must make a gut wrenching choice to allow Joe to die from starvation or to start feeding him intravenously when he slips into a coma. Some of these topics will be great for class discussion.
Independent or Paired Reading
For the mature adolescent readers, this novel is well written and offers many topics for students to write a literary analysis, character sketch or simple book report.
Teachers can give a book talk about the book's features, Irish connections and links to archaeology. Ask students to read it in pairs or to read it independently. For those reading it in pairs, ask them to keep a conversation log of their discussions and give time in class weekly for pairs to discuss the book.
In addition, students could complete research on Ireland’s history, Celtic traditions, the conflicts between the Catholics and the Protestants, bog people and/or the peat bogs.
To integrate science, the archaeology website has an article "Bodies of the Bogs." It offers interesting information and super links with illustrations of what the bog people wore and did. This activity could become a group research project with a PowerPoint presentation.
This book offers so much to discuss that the possibilities are endless. Dowd's other novels Swift Pure Cry and The London Eye Mystery have also won awards and may be offered as other possible reads for students. Dowd was a gifted writer and her work can be enjoyed by readers who are adolescents or adults.
Bodies in the Bog and the Archaeological Imagination