I’m continuing my reviews of the books I read during Middle Grade March! The second book I’d like to share my thoughts on is titled, Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier, and was the book picked by the hosts of Middle Grade March as the read-a-long group book of the month. I was excited that this book was selected because I had received this book as a gift for Christmas, so I knew it was a book I had some interest in.
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster is about Nan Sparrow, a young orphan girl, who is employed by a ruthless Master Sweeper who treats the kids in his care as a resource to making money and nothing else. It’s not an easy life but the only one Nan knows – except for the memories of a kinder Sweep who loved her and cared for her and who disappeared from her life without a trace of where he went or if he was still alive. Then one day as she is working a job by herself at an all-girls school, she becomes embedded in a chimney chute and almost perishes. She blacks out and when she comes to, she’s miraculously alive and safe in the attic of the school she was sweeping chimneys for…and she’s not alone! Enter “her monster” and the adventures of these two lovable characters will take you on an emotional rollercoaster of a ride.
Reading about Nan and her monster, whom she named Charlie, was pure delight. Both Nan and Charlie were entertaining characters to read about and I think Jonathan Auxier did a good job of making them likable and relatable. I could feel what Nan felt when she found herself in a few uncomfortable situations or in situations she wasn’t used to. Her anger, her fear, her loneliness, and her longing and hopes were all transferred beautifully to the reader. This helped me invest in the story and allowed me to be a part of Nan’s world. The side-characters were also well developed and brought new perspectives to the story. I think all of them were added assets and in the story for a reason – so the reader could gather useful information or learn more about Nan or Charlie’s history.
Not only were the people written in this story well rounded, but the development of the 1800s London was believable as well. Being a fan of historical fiction, I liked the details used to describe this era in time. I could see the city in my mind’s eye; I could follow Nan and Charlie as they traveled the rooftops of the city and I could see the streets full of pedestrians, peddlers, and sweepers as Nan strolled through them, traveling from one end of London to another.
Although there was a lot going on in the story, this wasn’t a fast paced book; however, the slower pace didn’t bother me, but I can see how this might drag just a little for those readers who may not be used to historical fiction novels. Since this book takes place in Victorian London, there are a few history lessons included in the story – about golems, sweeps, and the economic aspects of that time period, including the events leading up to the reformation act of the sweepers. The author intertwined both the fiction and actual historical events very well which created a plausible account of what might have happened if Nan actually existed in London around this timeframe. Plus, the author included a Historical Note section following the story in which he clarified some of the historical events that happened within the book and gave insight on the actual dates, places, etc. which helped put everything in perspective.
In conclusion, this book is one I think all middle graders should read because it was full of life lessons, and historical aspects that I think all young readers will benefit from. The book is geared to readers who are between the ages of 8-12 but those who are older can also enjoy the story of Nan and Charlie; maybe even a little younger if read to by an adult. Overall, this book will remain on my bookshelf and I plan on reading it again in the future because the story was just that enjoyable!
Found this video by the author talking about his book.