Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster Book Poster Image
Haunting tale of friendship and magic in Victorian times.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Although it features a magical being, Sweep presents a realistic portrait of life in Victorian England. It offers readers the opportunity to discuss child labor, anti-Semitism, women's rights, and much more.

Positive Messages

We save ourselves by saving others. If you're willing to fight for one's rights, great things can happen.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nan Sparrow is tough, brave, agile, vulnerable. She desperately misses the sweep who mentored her, and when she meets formidable but naive Charlie, his presence brings out her protective side.

Violence & Scariness

Nan is badly hurt when a fellow sweep lights her on fire after she's stuck in a chimney. Charlie attacks Crudd, Nan's evil master, when he threatens to harm her. A man is seriously burned. There's a climactic battle to the death.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sweep is a fantasy novel set in Victorian times, written by Jonathan Auxier (The Night Gardener). The story of a female chimney sweep and her friendship with a "monster" named Charlie, it addresses such issues as child labor and anti-Semitism. There are some violent scenes, including children burning in chimney fires or falling from roofs. 

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What's the story?

As SWEEP opens, 11-year-old Nan Sparrow ranks among the best "chimney boys" in Victorian London, even though she happens to be a girl. But when she gets caught in a chimney fire, she figures her days are over, until she wakes up in the attic of an abandoned building. At first believing she's alone, Nan discovers a strange creature hiding with her: a golem made from soot and ash. The artificial man grows in size and strength until he has the ability to protect Nan as she attempts to lead her own life, free from the cruel master who wishes to enslave her again.

Is it any good?

The Victorian Age may seem a long time ago, but as this clever, moving, and insightful novel shows, the problems people faced then still impact modern-day readers. With Sweep, Jonathan Auxier has constructed a complex fable of friendship and sacrifice. Nan, Charlie, Toby, and the vile Mr. Crudd are vivid creations, and the story uses them all to their best effect. Full of suspense, action, and humor, Sweep has the feel of a classic, and it should appeal to a wide range of readers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Sweep portrays child labor in Victorian times. Why is it now illegal to employ children under a certain age? 

  • A character in Sweep is basically sold into slavery as an indentured servant. Do such things happen today? If so, how do people prevent the practice?

  • What does it mean to be an "anti-Semite"? How do Jewish people cope with prejudice today? What effect does the media have on bigotry?

Book details

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