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Reading Group Guide to The Boggart
& The Boggart and the Monster
By Susan Cooper About the Books
“As long as writers with Susan Cooper’s skill continue to publish,” The New York Times observed, “magic is always available.” And magic—the magic of the old ways and the modern wizardry of our new technologies—is at the heart of this distinguished pair of fantasies. In their first adventure, The Bogart
, Emily Volnik and her brother Jessup inadvertently transport an ancient spirit from his ancestral castle in Scotland all the way to their home in Toronto. A mischievous creature, mostly invisible but also able to shape-shift at will, the boggart gleefully runs amok amongst the gadgetry of his new world—until he realizes how much he misses his old one. “A lively story,” announced School Library Journal
in its starred review, “compelling from first page to last, and a good bet for a read aloud.” Its equally acclaimed sequel, The Boggart and the Monster
, finds the boggart back in Scotland, trying to revive the magical powers of his long-lost cousin, the Loch Ness monster. “The play has plenty of sparkling complications,” wrote Booklist
. “The clever premise and great characters will leave kids clamoring for more.” Discussion Topics
1. Early on in The Boggart
, the creature is described as “one of the Old Things of the world, he was not made for human warmth… A boggart, by his nature, feels warmth for no one.” Yet this boggart also seems very human, even childlike, at times. What are some of the emotions he experiences? How do his emotional attachments and needs guide his behavior?
2. Why are most of the adults depicted in these novels reluctant to believe that the boggart exists? Would you also be skeptical? Why or why not?
3. The boggart is stung when Emily asks him to avoid getting her and her brother into trouble in The Boggart
. “Didn’t the girl know that boggarts live for mischief, not for harm?” What is the difference between mischief and harm? Does the boggart always understand the difference? Do you or your friends?
4. How could the boggart and the MacDevon clan, which includes modern day members Emily and Jessup Volnick, be related to each other? What is the old legend that links them?
5. Boggarts never die. What are the advantages of immortality? What are the disadvantages?
6. Even though he is an ancient creature, the boggart has a special affinity for computers. Jessup speculates that is because both the computer and the boggart are primarily made up of electrical impulses. What do you think? Could there be other reasons for the boggart’s attraction to computers?
7. In his second adventure, the boggart seems more willing to communicate with humans. How does he do it? Why does he do it? Does he trust humans more? Does he need them more?
8. In The Boggart
, the modern world is described as “a world which had driven out the Old Things and buried the Wild Magic deep under layers of reason and time.” Do you believe this is an accurate depiction of modern life? Do you think “Wild Magic” has been buried? Do you think it ever existed? Projects and Research
• In both novels, the boggart’s antics capture the overheated attention of the media. Take note of how the media cover big stories in your community. Do you think the coverage is fair and factual? Do you think some stories get too much attention? Why?
• On a map, track Emily and Jessup Volnick’s journeys back and forth from Toronto to the west coast of Scotland. Be sure to include their stopovers in London and Edinburgh. If possible, work with a travel agent to map out exact itineraries by air, train, and road.
• What would happen if the boggart visited your home or school? Would it be fun, disastrous, or a little of both? Write an original story.
• The boggart sometimes communicates with humans in Gaelic. Find out more about this ancient language. In what countries or regions was it spoken? What language largely replaced Gaelic? Why? Try to find written examples of the language.
• Imagine that you are a drama critic for a Toronto newspaper. Write a review of the extraordinary performance of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline
that occurs in The Boggart.
• Emily and Jessup Volnik are from Canada, yet they are sometimes mistaken for U.S. citizens when they are in Scotland. The children are quick to point out their proper nationality. Research some of the social and cultural differences between the United States and Canada. Though the two countries have a long history of friendly relations, are there also points of disagreement? Which country has a stronger link to Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom? Why?
• Prepare a feast fit for a boggart. Be sure to include a sampling of all his favorite foods—old treats as well as newfound delights. This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.