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Sample Book Ideas for Literature-Based Reading Enthusiasts

From the 1996 edition of:
The Handbook for the Young Reader's Choice Award
sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Library Association.

for more information contact
Gale Sherman:
Bette Ammon:

More Sample Book Ideas
The Boggart
by Susan Cooper

A 1996 Young Reader's Choice Award Nominee (Grade 4-8)

PUBLICATION DETAILS: LC 92-15527. 208p. 1993. 14.95 (ISBN 0-689-50576-0). Macmillan/Margaret K. McElderry.
GENRES: Fantasy, contemporary realistic fiction
THEMES: Spirits, supernatural, computers, practical jokes, castles, antiques, theater, parapsychology, grief, magic, Scotland, Gaelic, Canada.
READABILITY: Fifth grade
INTEREST LEVEL: Fourth through eighth grade


"In this winning mixture of fantasy and reality, Cooper shows us that ancient magic and computers aren't as far apart as we might think...Like a mischievous child, too young to realize the consequences of actions, the Boggart is maddening and endearing in the same breath, and when he returns to his castle home, readers will miss him every bit as much as Jess and Emily will." Booklist 89(10):907 January 15, 1993. Stephanie Zvirin.

The Horn Book Magazine 69(3):330-332 May/June 1993. Ann A. Flowers. (Starred review)

"The novel is fleshed out with numerous, vividly realized secondary characters...The intelligently thought-out clash between the ancient folkloric creature and modern science guarantees a wide audience. A lively story, compelling from first page to last, and a good bet for a read-aloud." School Library Journal 39(1):96 January 1993. Ellen Fader. (Starred review)



Susan Cooper was born in England and spent her first eighteen years in Buckinghamshire, along with visits to her grandparents in Wales. She was encouraged to read by her maternal grandfather who provided her with Dickens, Thackeray, and H.G. Wells. Cooper credits her grandmother with being responsible for her writing. She said her grandmother's Welshness was a "Celtic blessing that turns itself often into the words or melody of song." Cooper first started writing when she applied for a prize being offered by the original publishers of E. Nesbit. This is how the "Dark is Rising" series started. The dedication in The Boggart credits her children with helping her with the computer information. Cooper now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


The Volnik family inherits a Scottish castle, its antiques, and an ancient and mischievous spirit--the Boggart. The Boggart is accidentally transported to Canada in a drawer of an antique desk. For the Volniks, family life is disrupted when the Boggart does what boggarts do--furniture flies, food disappears, lights go haywire, computers operate invisibly, and so forth. Emily and her younger brother Jessup become acquainted, and then attached, to the Boggart. But, they soon realize the homesick Boggart must return to his traditional home for his happiness and their safety.


This excellent fantasy is perfect for individual reading as well as reading aloud. It's available in an unabridged taped version from Listening Library.


Mr. MacDevon lives in an old castle on a small Scottish island. Tommy, who delivers his groceries was holding MacDevon's boat on the beach when he...
...gasped, jumping suddenly backward, as a strand of wet seaweed was flipped up into his face from something in the bottom of the empty boat. He thought: So you're here again this time are you? For an instant he heard the thread of a laugh, from the thing in the boat that he could not see. A very ancient, mischievous thing, solitary and sly, born of a magic as old as the rocks and the waves. A thing that had lived in Castle Keep for all the centuries of the MacDevon clan, and longer. The Boggart had come shopping too. (pages 2-3, hardback edition)
The Boggart's shopping pranks are minor compared to the mischief he makes after accidentally being transported to Canada. This invisible, mischievous spirit can't help himself - he has to create havoc. Meet The Boggart in Susan Cooper's book.


The Boggart, an ancient Scottish spirit, knows little about the modern world. He only knows how to play tricks. For him...
...electricity became a challenge. The Boggart had to see whether this amazing strange power could be mastered by his own magic. Sure enough, it could. After a little practice, he could hover behind Maggie in the kitchen and make her electric beater stop and go backward, producing some gratifying splashing and shrieks. He could make the lights flicker as if a bulb were about to burn out, or make the telephone ring even though nobody was calling. Soon he found he could also change the channel on the screen of the television set. (page 70, hardback edition)
These seem like innocent pranks but once the Boggart catches on to modern technology, nothing is safe, including himself.



The Boggart, an ancient Scottish spirit, is only content in his ancestral castle. Many students love anything to do with castles. To enhance a study of castles and medieval architecture, develop a classroom library including David Macaulay's Castle (Houghton Mifflin, 1977), Christopher Gravett's Castle (Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), Sarah Howarth's The Middle Ages (Viking, 1993), and the section about castles in Stephen Biesty's Incredible Cross-Sections by Richard Platt (Alfred A. Knopf, 1992). Also provide the excellent PBS documentary narrated by Macaulay, Castle (PBS Video, 1983). Students can build miniature castles to scale, design a modern castle, or develop castle blueprints based on the information in these materials.

Computer Science/Internet:

Jessup and his friends, a.k.a. "The Gang of Five," are self-proclaimed computer geeks. They're able to manipulate typefaces, develop computer games, and program their own computers. Many students in your classroom are computer literate but may not have experience on the Internet. BookRead is a network of students and teachers in classrooms around the world who are electronically linked through the Internet and discussing books they are reading. See the section in The Handbook for the Young Reader's Choice Award entitled "The Internet and Children's Literature" for detailed information on subscribing and participating in exciting literature adventures.


Mr. Volnik runs a professional theater where his daughter Emily enjoys the actors, the atmosphere, and the costuming. One day the Boggart accompanies Emily and wreaks havoc during a lighting rehearsal. Plays cannot go on without a variety of crews, including lighting, set design, makeup, props, etc. For potential theater aficionados in your class, provide an opportunity to learn more about behind the scenes action in play production. Consult Carl Allensworth's The Complete Play Production Handbook (Harper, 1982), Richard Corson's Stage Makeup (Prentice, 1986), Scene Design and Stage Lighting by W. Oren Parker et al. (Holt, 1989), Terry Thomas' Create Your Own Stage Sets (Prentice, 1985), and/or Thurston James' The Theater Props Handbook (Betterway, 1988). In keeping with The Boggart, consider writing and producing a play featuring fellow tricksters from different cultures.

Language Arts/Folklore/Tricksters:

The Boggart is a classic trickster. Most cultures have traditional stories that feature a trickster character. Provide books featuring them for further reading. These include the "Iktomi" books (about the curious Iktomi who attempts to trick others and always ends up fooling himself) by Paul Goble, "Spider" and "Coyote" stories from Native American cultures, "Anansi the Spider" from Africa, and "Brer Rabbit" from African American traditional literature. Don't forget to include Gerald McDermott's trickster series: Papagayo: The Mischief Maker (Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1992), Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest (Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1993), Zomo the Rabbit: A Trickster Tale from West Africa (Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1992). Study the similar characteristics among these tricksters and their individual cultures.



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