Nan Sparrow is young, covered in soot and an orphan. She is a chimney sweep living in the Victorian London of the late 1800’s and five years ago her beloved benefactor simply known as the Sweep left, leaving her with but one gift, a small lump of coal. With no one else to care for her, she finds herself working for a heartless chimney sweep overlord named Wilkie Crudd who regularly sends young children down dangerous chimneys. Through hard work, cunning and a little luck, Nan escapes one tight spot after another. But then one day, as she is cleaning the chimneys at Miss Mayhew’s Seminary for Young Ladies, Nan gets caught in a chimney fire and her luck runs out. In a fantastic miracle, her small lump of coal mysteriously transforms into an ash and coal monster who has carried her away to safety. For the rest of the story, Nan and her monster who she calls Charlie make a way for themselves in this cruel world, protecting one another and helping other sweeps along the way.
A Dickensian tale of adventure, fantasy and history, Sweep by Jonathan Auxier is a wonderful story of friendship, compassion and courage. Auxier is masterful at creating characters rich with personality that readers will immediately grow to love. The story itself is a mixture of historic fiction and fantasy and I thoroughly enjoyed the plot as it climbed to its climax. The description of the people and places of late 19th century Victorian London are masterful. One reviewer wrote that the story was, “at once both magical and moralizing, hopeful and heartbreaking.” I couldn’t agree more. Sweep by Jonathan Auxier is a great book that I’ll be reading again soon.
- Ages: 8 – 99
- Awards: 2019 Sydney Taylor Book Award
- Pages: 344
- Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
by Aaron G. Myers