Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster

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Annotation: In nineteenth-century England, after her father's disappearance, ten-year-old Nan Sparrow works as a "climbing boy," aiding chimney sweeps. But when her most treasured possessions end up in a fireplace, she unwittingly creates a golem.
Catalog Number: #169501
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Copyright Date: 2018
Edition Date: 2018
Pages: 344 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-419-73140-8 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-2789-0
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-419-73140-2 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-2789-1
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2018014305
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
Horn Book
When child chimney sweep Nan Sparrow gets stuck in a flue and nearly dies, she is saved by a "soot golem." Nan and the kind, gentle "Charlie" escape from her cruel master and make a home in an abandoned mansion. Weaving together strands of Jewish folklore, Blake's poetry, Frankenstein, child-labor reform, and magical realism, Auxier crafts a beautiful, hopeful story from the ugly realities of nineteenth-century British life.
Kirkus Reviews
A young chimney sweep gathers an unusual family around her in this bittersweet historical fantasy of love and loss.Eleven-year-old Nan Sparrow's only legacies from the Sweep, her beloved mentor, are his hat and a strange lump of charcoal. After her fiery near death lets her escape her abusive master's control, this "char" awakens into a protective golem she names Charlie. Alas, Victorian London, however magical, is not kind to "climbing boys" of any gender—nor to monsters, nor to any of the odd lot of outcasts that Nan befriends. Auxier (The Night Gardener, 2014, etc.) turns his imaginative whimsy and lyrical prose to a real historical horror; while never gratuitous, he does not shy away from the appalling conditions under which children labor, nor does he ignore the sacrifices and struggle to abolish the practice. The inclusion of two (possibly three) Jewish characters suggests the intertwining of anti-Semitism and class exploitation, while references to such authors as William Blake, Daniel Defoe, and Mary Shelley demonstrate how literature could fire imaginations and highlight oppression. But the vivid characters—tough, whip-smart Nan; lovable, childlike Charlie; their engaging companions; even the marvelously Dickensian villains—prevent the story from becoming either dry history lesson or political screed. As Nan painfully, tentatively, haltingly permits love to make her vulnerable, she also gains strength and purpose: "We are saved by saving others."As heartbreaking as bleak midwinter—and as hopeful as early spring. (author's note, historical note) (Historical fantasy. 8-12)
Publishers Weekly
A chimney sweep disappears from a London rooftop, leaving six-year-old Nan Sparrow alone, save for a hat and a lump of mysteriously ever-warm charcoal-her char. To survive, Nan joins a gang of -climbing boys- owned by the abusive Wilkie Crudd. By age 11, she is the finest sweep of them all, but following a brutal chimney fire, she discovers that her char has become a golem, which she names Charlie, and that he has saved her life. As the two hide from Crudd, Nan grows to love Charlie and his particular brand of magic, and she learns that golems are, by nature, ephemeral: if Charlie can flame up, he can almost certainly flame out. A cast of fully fleshed (and sooted) characters contribute texture and community, and Auxier (The Night Gardener) mixes moments of triumph and pure delight (new snow, rooftop vistas) with dark, Dickensian themes (child labor, sickness, poverty). Told in two allusive sections--Innocence- and -Experience,- after Blake-s volume-that pivot between Nan-s past and present, this dazzling, warmhearted novel contemplates selflessness and saving, deep love and what makes a monster. Ages 8-12. Agent: Joe Regal, Regal Hoffmann & Assoc. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
Gr 58 A stunning historical fantasy novel about the power of friendship, our potential for courage, and the beauty of remembering loved ones, set in Victorian England. Nan is one of the many child sweeps who have the dangerous job of cleaning chimneys. She wakes one morning to find her beloved father figure, the Sweep, gone, a lump of char in his place. Years later, Nan gets caught in a chimney fire and is rescued by the char, who springs to life as a Golem named Charlie. Nan soon befriends a young teacher named Miss Bloom, from whom she learns that Golems no longer live after their purpose is served. When a young sweep dies, Nan, her fellow sweeps, and Miss Bloom organize a protest on May Day to reveal the dangers of their job to the general public. Meanwhile, Nan realizes the Golem's true purpose and with it, the difficulty of letting go. Auxier phenomenally weaves historical facts and fantasy. While the feats of these child sweeps seem incredible, Auxier provides back matter in the form of historical notes to clarify fact from fiction. Nan's strong yet vulnerable personality will appeal to readers, and a realistic set of secondary characters add depth to the plot. The novel's structure is a nod to William Blake and will delight teachers and librarians. VERDICT Excellent writing and skillful integration of historical fact with compelling characters make this a must-buy where middle grade fantasy is in demand. Amy McInerney, Falmouth Elementary School, ME
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
A young chimney sweep gathers an unusual family around her in this bittersweet historical fantasy of love and loss.Eleven-year-old Nan Sparrow's only legacies from the Sweep, her beloved mentor, are his hat and a strange lump of charcoal. After her fiery near death lets her escape her abusive master's control, this "char" awakens into a protective golem she names Charlie. Alas, Victorian London, however magical, is not kind to "climbing boys" of any gender—nor to monsters, nor to any of the odd lot of outcasts that Nan befriends. Auxier (The Night Gardener, 2014, etc.) turns his imaginative whimsy and lyrical prose to a real historical horror; while never gratuitous, he does not shy away from the appalling conditions under which children labor, nor does he ignore the sacrifices and struggle to abolish the practice. The inclusion of two (possibly three) Jewish characters suggests the intertwining of anti-Semitism and class exploitation, while references to such authors as William Blake, Daniel Defoe, and Mary Shelley demonstrate how literature could fire imaginations and highlight oppression. But the vivid characters—tough, whip-smart Nan; lovable, childlike Charlie; their engaging companions; even the marvelously Dickensian villains—prevent the story from becoming either dry history lesson or political screed. As Nan painfully, tentatively, haltingly permits love to make her vulnerable, she also gains strength and purpose: "We are saved by saving others."As heartbreaking as bleak midwinter—and as hopeful as early spring. (author's note, historical note) (Historical fantasy. 8-12)
Word Count: 68,335
Reading Level: 4.5
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.5 / points: 10.0 / quiz: 196899 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:3.5 / points:15.0 / quiz:Q75392
Lexile: 630L
"Nan, tell us about the Sweep."
It was dark in the coal bin, but Nan could tell it was Newt who was asking. Newt was newest to Crudd's crew. He was barely six years old; he didn't know all the rules. The first rule was you never asked another climber about his life Before.
There were five climbing boys in the coal bin: Newt, Whittles, Shilling-Tom, Roger, and Nan. Nan wasn't a boy, but you'd never know that to look at her. She was as grimy as the rest of them. "Who told you about the Sweep?" Nan said. "Was it Roger?"
"Keep me out of it, Cinderella," Roger muttered. He called Nan "Cinderella" because he thought it annoyed her. He was right.
"No one told me," Newt said. "I dreamed about him. Last night I slept in your corner. I dreamed him and the girl were both singing to all the people. Only I woke up before I could hear the words."
This was a thing that happened: the dreaming. Every so often one of the boys would say that he had dreamed about the Sweep. Nan couldn't explain it. It seemed to happen whenever one of them fell asleep close to her. All she knew was that she didn't like it. The Sweep was hers.
"It was about you, wasn't it?" Newt whispered. "You're the girl from my dream."
"No," Nan said. "I'm the girl who wants to go to sleep." She'd spent fourteen hours climbing chimneys and knew there were more waiting for her tomorrow.
"You're splashing in the wrong puddle, Newt," said a raspy voice by the slat window. It was Whittles. He was only eight, but his voice sounded like an old man's on account of breathing too much chimney soot. "Me and Shilling-Tom been dreaming about the girl and her Sweep for years. Not once have we gotten Nan to fess up that it's her."
"Aye," said Shilling-Tom. He was Whittles's best mate. "You might as well try to get a second helping from Trundle's pot." Trundle was the woman who cared for them. If you could call it that. "I won't fess up because it's nonsense," Nan said. And it was nonsense. How could two people have the same dream?
"Is the Sweep a real person?" Newt asked. "He sounds lovely. Much nicer than Master Crudd." He whispered this last bit. Just in case Crudd could hear him upstairs.
"Sweeps aren't supposed to be lovely," Nan said. "They're grimy and tough as stone. Just like chimneys." Maybe lovely was a fine thing to call a person in Newt's old life, but he was a climber now. He wouldn't last long if he kept using words like that.
She heard the boy move closer. "Please, Nan?" Her eyes had adjusted to the dim light, and she could see the outline of his head. With his curls shaved of, he really did look like a newt. They had named him well. "Just tell me if he's real. I promise I won't tell the others."
"Don't beg. A climber never begs." That was another rule.
"Maybe I can sleep here next to you?" He clasped her arm. "Then I'll dream about him all on my own?"
Nan knew what the boy was saying. He thought that some-how the dreams were coming from her, which was impossible. She pulled away. "Find your own corner."
"Aw, go easy on the kid." It was Whittles. "It's only been a week since he . . . you know . . ." He didn't say the rest. None of them knew what had happened to Newt's family to have him end up here, but it had to have been bad. It was always bad.
"I'm not begging," Newt said. "But it's a true fact: I can't sleep without a bedtime story. My mummy always says . . ." He corrected himself. ". . . always said . . ." His voice faltered. "It's just I thought hearing a story about the Sweep might help me fall asleep."
Nan remembered when she had felt the same way. That was a long time ago. That was Before.

Excerpted from Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

A 2019 Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner! It's been five years since the Sweep disappeared. Orphaned and alone, Nan Sparrow had no other choice but to work for a ruthless chimney sweep named Wilkie Crudd. She spends her days sweeping out chimneys. The job is dangerous and thankless, but with her wits and will, Nan has managed to beat the deadly odds time and time again. When Nan gets stuck in a chimney fire, she fears the end has come. Instead, she wakes to find herself unharmed in an abandoned attic. And she is not alone. Huddled in the corner is a mysterious creature--a golem --made from soot and ash. Sweep is the story of a girl and her monster. Together, these two outcasts carve out a new life--saving each other in the process. Lyrically told by one of today's most powerful storytellers, Sweep is a heartrending adventure about the everlasting gifts of friendship and wonder.


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