Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 8 to 12
- Grade: 3 to 7
A brand-new novel by one of today's most powerful storytellers, Sweep is a heart-rending adventure about the everlasting gifts of friendship and hope.
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 together--saving one another in the process.
About the author
Jonathan Auxier writes strange stories for strange children--including PETER NIMBLE & HIS FANTASTIC EYES and THE NIGHT GARDENER. Raised in Canada, Jonathan now lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and family.
- Nominated, Sakura Medal
- Short-listed, Rocky Mountain Book Award
- Winner, Red Cedar Book Award
- Nominated, TD Canadian Children's Literature Award
- Short-listed, Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature
- Short-listed, Snow Willow Award
- Winner, Governor General’s Literary Award - Young People’s Literature - Text
Excerpt: Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster (by (author) Jonathan Auxier)
"Nan, tell us about the Sweep.”
It was dark in the coal bin, but Nan could tell it was Newt who was asking. Newt was newest to Crudd’s crew. He was barely six years old; he didn’t know all the rules. The first rule was you never asked another climber about his life Before.
There were five climbing boys in the coal bin: Newt, Whittles, Shilling-Tom, Roger, and Nan. Nan wasn’t a boy, but you’d never know that to look at her. She was as grimy as the rest of them. “Who told you about the Sweep?” Nan said. “Was it Roger?”
“Keep me out of it, Cinderella,” Roger muttered. He called Nan “Cinderella” because he thought it annoyed her. He was right.
“No one told me,” Newt said. “I dreamed about him. Last night I slept in your corner. I dreamed him and the girl were both singing to all the people. Only I woke up before I could hear the words.”
This was a thing that happened: the dreaming. Every so often one of the boys would say that he had dreamed about the Sweep. Nan couldn’t explain it. It seemed to happen whenever one of them fell asleep close to her. All she knew was that she didn’t like it. The Sweep was hers.
“It was about you, wasn’t it?” Newt whispered. “You’re the girl from my dream.”
“No,” Nan said. “I’m the girl who wants to go to sleep.” She’d spent fourteen hours climbing chimneys and knew there were more waiting for her tomorrow.
“You’re splashing in the wrong puddle, Newt,” said a raspy voice by the slat window. It was Whittles. He was only eight, but his voice sounded like an old man’s on account of breathing too much chimney soot. “Me and Shilling-Tom been dreaming about the girl and her Sweep for years. Not once have we gotten Nan to fess up that it’s her.”
“Aye,” said Shilling-Tom. He was Whittles’s best mate. “You might as well try to get a second helping from Trundle’s pot.” Trundle was the woman who cared for them. If you could call it that. “I won’t fess up because it’s nonsense,” Nan said. And it was nonsense. How could two people have the same dream?
“Is the Sweep a real person?” Newt asked. “He sounds lovely. Much nicer than Master Crudd.” He whispered this last bit. Just in case Crudd could hear him upstairs.
“Sweeps aren’t supposed to be lovely,” Nan said. “They’re grimy and tough as stone. Just like chimneys.” Maybe lovely was a fine thing to call a person in Newt’s old life, but he was a climber now. He wouldn’t last long if he kept using words like that.
She heard the boy move closer. “Please, Nan?” Her eyes had adjusted to the dim light, and she could see the outline of his head. With his curls shaved of, he really did look like a newt. They had named him well. “Just tell me if he’s real. I promise I won’t tell the others.”
“Don’t beg. A climber never begs.” That was another rule.
“Maybe I can sleep here next to you?” He clasped her arm. “Then I’ll dream about him all on my own?”
Nan knew what the boy was saying. He thought that some-how the dreams were coming from her, which was impossible. She pulled away. “Find your own corner.”
“Aw, go easy on the kid.” It was Whittles. “It’s only been a week since he . . . you know . . .” He didn’t say the rest. None of them knew what had happened to Newt’s family to have him end up here, but it had to have been bad. It was always bad.
“I’m not begging,” Newt said. “But it’s a true fact: I can’t sleep without a bedtime story. My mummy always says . . .” He corrected himself. “. . . always said . . .” His voice faltered. “It’s just I thought hearing a story about the Sweep might help me fall asleep.”
Nan remembered when she had felt the same way. That was a long time ago. That was Before.
One of Book Riot’s Top 100 Children’s Books of 2018
One of CBC Books’ Best Canadian Children's & YA Books of 2018
One of The Boston Globe's Best Children’s Books of 2018
One of Wall Street Journal’s Best Children’s Books of 2018
One of Quill & Quire's Books of the Year 2018
One of Canadian Children's Book Centre’s Favourite Books of the Year 2018
One of Horn Book Fanfare's Best Books of 2018
One of Publishers Weekly's Best Children’s and YA Books 2018
One of New York Public Library’s Best Books for Kids 2018
One of Montreal Gazette’s Best Books to Give Kids for the Holidays 2018
One of CCBC’S Best Books for Kids & Teens (Spring 2019)
PRAISE FOR Sweep:
"This dazzling, warmhearted novel contemplates selflessness and saving, deep love and what makes a monster." --Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
"As heartbreaking as bleak midwinter — and as hopeful as early spring." --Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
“History and mythology combine in the moving story of a young chimney sweep in Victorian London.” --Wall Street Journal
“Sweep is both specific in its setting and universal in its consideration of what makes people both selfish and noble, and how social and economic circumstances can destroy or elevate. . . . Highly recommended.” --Highly recommended, Jewish Book Council
"This tale of a young chimney sweep and her golem will make you laugh and cry and cheer for the children. . . . Auxier. . . weaves a wondrous tale that wraps readers tightly and pulls them into a world where a very special magic exists.” --The Book Reader Today
“[A] fantastical and vibrant story encapsulating the horrific experiences of young sweeps along with a nuanced and sensitive exploration of friendship, loss, and fighting for those you love." --CM Magazine
“The blend of myth, magic, and history will keep kids turning the pages and leave them sorry when it’s over.” --Canadian Children’s Book News
"Sweep’s ambition and sophistication are impressive." --Quill & Quire
". . . a tale that is both uplifting and heartbreaking." --New York Times
“It's filled with love and imagination. . . [and] it's beautifully told.” --CBC The Next Chapter
"[an] engrossing fantasy" --The Boston Gobe
"Auxier wipes away the grime from a bleak chapter in history, where children were forced to work dangerous jobs that claimed many lives. He questions what makes one a monster and applauds helping others, activism, education, earthly marvels, and the possibility of magic. Nan’s fiery personality will attract readers like moths, and Auxier's unusual blend of mythology and history will keep them transfixed." --Starred Review, Booklist
"Weaving together strands of Jewish folklore (Nan calls Charlie a “soot golem”), Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, Shelley’s Frankenstein, the history of child-labor reform, and his own threads of magical realism, Auxier crafts a beautiful, hopeful story out of some ugly realities of nineteenth-century British life." --Starred Review, Horn Book Magazine
"Jonathan Auxier weaves a magical spell that draws readers right into the stark, gritty streets of Victorian London . . . Readers will be entranced." --Starred Review, School Library Connection