Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster is a unique historical fiction that weaves magical elements throughout the story.
While this story contains sadness, it is full of hope and beauty as well. I loved it enough to choose it for my Online Middle School Monthly Fiction Book Club in 2023.
This post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Length: 384 pages
First Published: 2020
Publisher’s Description: Sweep
“It’s been five years since the Sweep disappeared. Orphaned and alone, 11-year-old 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.
With vivid characters—tough, whip-smart Nan; lovable, childlike Charlie; their engaging companions; even the marvelously Dickensian villains—bestselling author Jonathan Auxier addresses issues like Dickensian child labor and anti-Semitism, but never becomes preachy or overbearing. As Nan painfully, tentatively, haltingly permits love to make her vulnerable, she also gains strength and purpose.
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.”
My Goodreads Review
Eleven-year-old Nan Sparrow is one of the many orphans who survive on the streets of London by climbing chimneys under the management of a chimney sweep. She was taught this trade by a kind older man who raised her, but now that he has disappeared she is under the care of a brutal sweep.
Everything changes for Nan the day she gets stuck in a deadly chimney fire. Rather than dying, she wakes up in the attic to find a mysterious creature made from ash and coal. He has saved her from the fire and together they will escape Nan’s current life and find new hope.
I absolutely love this book. It’s a tough one because there is sadness, not only in the historical realities of this time period but also in the death of more than one beloved character. That said, it is also a story full of hope, love, and determination to be the change the world needs.
The way elements of magic and fantasy are woven into this historical fiction book feels unique and magical. The Golem – the mysterious creature of ash and coal- is a character who brings creativity and delight to this story. The kids in my book club loved Charlie (the Golem) and it was fun to discuss his character in our book club.
There is much to learn about this time period if you want to dig in deeper, though the author’s note provides plenty of background information for the reader who would like to separate truth from fiction.
Highly recommend this middle-grade book with the caution that there is some sadness. Even with that, this was a favorite title of many students in my 11-13 year old online book club.
My Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Sweep: Discussion Questions for Your Homeschool Study
1. Describe the setting of the book. In what ways is the setting an important part of this story? Think about how it contributes to the plot, the characters, and the themes. Could this story take place in another time or place? How would that change it?
2. This book is written in the third person limited point of view. How is this similar to the first person? What is the one time the narrator breaks away from Nan to follow another character? What was so important for the reader to know that Nan didn’t even realize?
3. This book contains magical elements. According to the events in the book, what do you think is the real magic that can change the world? (There can be more than one answer to this!)
Homeschooling With Books: Discussion Questions To Help You Get Started
Grab this set of questions designed to facilitate a great discussion about any book with your kids:
Read More by This Author:
Middle School Titles Your Next Homeschool Study
Middle School Books Lists
- A Rover’s Story Discussion Topics and Homeschool Study - December 1, 2023
- Speak Up! Book Review and Homeschool Study Ideas - November 30, 2023
- Spy School Graphic Novel Discussion Questions and Book Review - November 29, 2023