Monday, August 27, 2018

Middle Grade Monday and arc review: Sweep: the story of a girl and her monster by Jonathan Auxier

Sweep: the story of a girl and her monster by Jonathan Auxier. 368 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, September 25, 2018. 9781419731402. (Review from arc courtesy of publisher.)

Oh! My, my, my, my, my! How much do I adore this book? I love it so much, I was ready to turn back to page one and begin again as soon as I finished it. I love it so much I plan to reread it with my ears as soon as the audio is released. Note to self: do not make this my car audiobook. Tears and driving do not mix. Neither do tears and reading mix. It is very hard to read through tears and the occasional sob.

Yes, reader, there will be tears, many tears. As a matter of fact, I thought that I would read this in one sitting, but could not because it hurt too much. I had to set the book aside a few times. But that does not mean it is not utterly engrossing. Just emotionally intense. 

Nan Sparrow is a chimney sweep and a good one at that. She learned from the best, her mentor and father figure, the Sweep; but he has been gone from her life for so long. She holds out hope that he will return, but no one else does. She carries very few possessions, one being a small piece of charcoal that the Sweep gave her. The other being his hat. She is now indentured to Mister Wilkie Crudd, one of the most vile and aptly named antagonists in children's literature.

Nan is admired by the boys in Crudds' crew but she holds herself apart, unwilling to invest in caring. She is rather unsuccessfully trying not to care about Newt, the newest, smallest and youngest sweep. She is the best sweep around, much to lead boy, Roger's chagrin. When she gets stuck in a chimney, she is horrified to learn that Roger is going to use "the Devil's nudge" to loosen Nan. This would've surely resulted in Nan's death except that the small piece of charcoal blazes to life and saves her.

She awakens in an attic burned but alive to find a child-sized soot creature watching over her. She names him Charlie. She is content to lie low, allowing everyone to presume she is dead. She knows that Crudd will search high and low for her when a body fails to be recovered from the ashes of the chimney fire. For now, she and Charlie are safe in the attic of an abandoned home. Eventually, she learns that Charlie is probably a golem and golems exist only for one purpose. When that purpose is served, the golem is no more. How much time do Nan and Charlie have? Will Crudd find her? How is it that society does nothing about the abuse of child laborers in Victorian England? 

The writing is perfectly gorgeous. The Victorian England setting is vivid and the characters are memorable. While the prose is sophisticated and nuanced, the story is accessible for readers who just want an adventure. Author Jonathan Auxier's storytelling is impressive. I loved Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, Sophie Quire and The Night Gardener. He has outdone himself here. 

Sweep is a first-purchase. Talk it up, share it widely and hope that the Newbery committee and all the other year-end "best books" committees are reading it. 

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