Sweep Provides a Window into the Lives of Chimney Kids


“Sweep” by Jonathan Auxier is a novel set in London in the 1800s. It follows the story of the child chimney sweepers that are forced to risk life and limb for poor pay and terrible living conditions. Nan Sparrow is a chimney sweep working under Mr. Crudd, and she works every day just so that he can look good and take the credit. Under Crudd, she has become smart, brave, and lucky. She has beaten the odds time and time again, but one day her luck runs out. Caught in a chimney fire with seemingly no way out, Nan thinks she is done for. When she wakes up almost unharmed, she discovers something that just might provide a way out from under the thumb of her master, and a way into the hearts of all of London. The creature that saved her is somehow connected to her old master, the Sweep, who took care of her and showed her how to be kind. When the Sweep went missing, Nan was left with nothing but his hat and a strange piece of glowing char that always seemed to be warm. Now that little ashy block has grown, and its name is Charlie.

I enjoyed this book a lot. “Sweep” is based on real historical events, but an almost mystical air is added  in, with creatures and enchantments enriching the story. I really liked how the pacing started out slower than most novels, and changed pace depending on what was happening to the characters. The plot twists around repeatedly, and you don’t really see how the story will end until you turn the final corner. The characters weren’t very relatable, but they are endearing you can learn a lot from them. In-depth description and beautiful dialogue throws you into the story, connecting you emotionally with the characters and their cause. I cried at the ending. Though the setting and plot are a little dark, the message is very calm and serene. I encourage all kids ages eleven and up to read this, and anyone who loves historical fiction or fantasy is bound to like this novel. While I would love it if “Sweep” had a sequel coming, I don’t think there’s going to be one. The end of the story wraps up all the loose ends, and you’re not left wondering “Oh, what happened to them?” This is Jonathan Auxier’s fifth book.