I guess I do the whole book rating thing backwards. Instead of reading the reviews to decide what to read, I finish the whole book and then read what everyone else says. This way I can form my own opinions and the story is never ruined for me.
I’m a new librarian in a school district with an annual Battle of The Books for 5th graders. I needed to read all eleven of the novels; I liked most of them but one totally surprised me. Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
by Jonathan Auxier. I am embarrassed to admit that I was shocked when magic appeared in this story. I know, monster is right in the title but I was so absorbed in this Dickens- like tale that I totally did not see the monster hidden in plain sight.
Nan Sparrow is a chimney sweep in Victorian England. She is homeless and hungry but very loved. The Sweep, is what she calls, the father figure who raised her. One day The Sweep disappears leaving her with only a lump of coal. She has no alternative,she has to put herself in dangerous situations just to eat each day.
I cheered for Nan as she earned money sweeping chimneys and was thrilled when she met a school teacher with a very Jewish name. I certainly was not expecting this book to have a Jewish component but there it was in the middle of an already compelling historical fiction novel.
Much of this novel seems so real. The lives of chimney sweeps, the poverty and despair of the 1800s and the generosity of children. Sweep didn’t need a fantasy element. But with the addition of Charlie the Golem the book got even better. I never lost interest in all 368 pages. You can read this book as an adult or read it to discuss it with a child age 10 and up.
Now you won’t be as surprised with the Jewish connection as I was. But Sweep is still a very worthwhile read.