Nan Sparrow is an orphan whose life has been saved by The Sweep. The two travel from town to town cleaning out the chimneys that are filled with soot. The Sweep mends the holes in Nan's clothes and gives her the best of their food. Best of all he tells her stories. Together they have everything they need to be happy. But the day comes when The Sweep's sleeping spot is empty. Nan waits and waits and he doesn't come back. When she discovers his hat she knows the truth. Her Sweep is gone forever.
Alone in the world and only six years old, Nan is in trouble. That's when her life swings to the dark and the difficult. She is taken by a man named Crudd who holds her hostage along with many other children. They are sent into the streets every day to climb the chimneys and earn money for Crudd while risking their lives. Nan competes for the best position in the horde but feels the uneasy eyes of Crudd on her whenever he is nearby. Her life is struggle. But she is one of the best at squeezing into a nine inch chimney, avoiding the heat of the fire and making her way to the top in the utterly perilous conditions.
Nan's story is filled with courage and fight. She holds tightly to the small char that was one of the few things her Sweep left for her. One day that char rises up and displays its true power and loyalty as it stands between Nan and death. Nan escapes with her char and the two become dear friends, living in an old abandoned home of a sea captain and filling their days with their imaginations, books and finding ways to help the char, now named Charlie, to learn about the world.
Extraordinary doesn't begin to honor the deep bond between Charlie and Nan. The outside world comes to them in the form of Miss Bloom who is the source of Nan learning that her dear Charlie is a golem and that golems do not ever live to the end of the story. Nan fights to protect the other chimney sweeps while she and Charlie keep loneliness and fear at bay. Together they live in a world of friendship, of hope, of possibilities and as long as they have each other, they have enough. Love can give you enough courage to save someone else even when you can't save yourself. Can Nan protect the boys who are still caught in Crudd's web? Will the friendly societies of London step forward to see the truth of the plight of the children who are sent up into the chimneys day after day? Will Crudd find her and exact retribution in the end?
The powerful bonds that connect us to the ones we love are the stars of this story along with the indomitable spirits of children no matter how despicably the adults choose to treat them. There is magic in love.
368 pages 978-1419731402 Ages 9-13
Great quotes from Sweep:
"Keeping alive isn't enough. You have to live for something. You need a purpose."
"Some folks are good at not seeing the things they don't want to see."
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com
For nearly a century, Victorian London relied on “climbing boys”—orphans owned by chimney sweeps—to clean flues and protect homes from fire. The work was hard, thankless, and brutally dangerous. Eleven-year-old Nan Sparrow is quite possibly the best climber who ever lived—and a girl. With her wits and will, she’s managed to beat the deadly odds time and time again. But when Nan gets stuck in a deadly chimney fire, she fears her time has come. Instead, she wakes to find herself in an abandoned attic. And she is not alone. Huddled in the corner is a mysterious creature—a golem—made from ash and coal. This is the creature that saved her from the fire.
Sweep is the story of a girl and her monster. Together, these two outcasts carve out a life—saving one another in the process. By one of today’s most powerful storytellers, Sweep is a heartrending adventure about the everlasting gifts of friendship and hope.--from the publisher