A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is about London street children just after World War II. They smoke, drink, and fight, though it's mostly just referenced and not described.
What's the story?
In the bombed-out slums of London after WWII, Lovejoy lives with a restaurant owner and his wife while her mother travels as a singer. Little better than a street urchin, Lovejoy has grown up tough. But when she grabs an envelope from a sickly boy who found it on the street, something new enters her life.
The envelope contains a packet of seeds. In secret she plants a tiny garden in a vacant lot, but it's soon destroyed by the gang of boys who play there and don't allow girls. The leader of the gang, Tip, feels bad, though, and shows her a better place for her secret garden -- in the ruins of the local Catholic church. Thus begins a strange odyssey the two street children take together.
Is it any good?
AN EPISODE OF SPARROWS is beautifully moving, rich, and complex, filled with affectionate understanding of human beings in all their astounding variety. Every character, major and minor, is a fully fleshed-out creation. Though there's a deeply melancholy, even tragic, undercurrent, and Godden doesn't flinch from realism, she still manages to pull off an ending that is both absolutely believable and satisfying.
Rumer Godden originally published this as an adult novel. The New York Review of Books put out this reprint in 2007 for the author's centenary. There's nothing terribly inappropriate for children here, but the way it's told, involving insight into adult behavior and intricate shifting of viewpoint and time, may confuse inexperienced readers. Children who have read The Secret Garden probably can manage it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the idea of the transformative power of gardening. Why might a tough urchin such as Lovejoy be so obsessed with creating a garden? What is her power over Tip? Why do Olivia and Angela have such opposite reactions to what Lovejoy is up to? How is this book different from modern stories you read?