Cover image for Sweep : the story of a girl and her monster / a story by Jonathan Auxier.
Sweep : the story of a girl and her monster / a story by Jonathan Auxier.
Publication Information:
Toronto, Ontario : Puffin, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers, 2018.

Physical Description:
344 pages : map ; 22 cm
General Note:
Published simutaneously in the United States by Amulet books, an imprint of ABRAMS.


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Material Type
Home Location
AUX Book Junior Collection

On Order



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.

Author Notes

JONATHAN AUXIER teaches creative writing and children's literature. He is the author of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes , which was a Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award Honour Book and was also shortlisted for the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy and the Diamond Willow Award. His second book, The Night Gardener , was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award, the Silver Birch Award and the CLA Book of the Year for Children Award. His third book, Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard , received four starred reviews and was shortlisted for the Sunburst Fantasy Award in Canada. Auxier grew up near Vancouver and now lives in Pittsburgh with his Social: @jonathanauxier

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

A chimney sweep disappears from a London rooftop, leaving six-year-old Nan Sparrow alone, save for a hat and a lump of mysteriously ever-warm charcoal-her char. To survive, Nan joins a gang of "climbing boys" owned by the abusive Wilkie Crudd. By age 11, she is the finest sweep of them all, but following a brutal chimney fire, she discovers that her char has become a golem, which she names Charlie, and that he has saved her life. As the two hide from Crudd, Nan grows to love Charlie and his particular brand of magic, and she learns that golems are, by nature, ephemeral: if Charlie can flame up, he can almost certainly flame out. A cast of fully fleshed (and sooted) characters contribute texture and community, and Auxier (The Night Gardener) mixes moments of triumph and pure delight (new snow, rooftop vistas) with dark, Dickensian themes (child labor, sickness, poverty). Told in two allusive sections-"Innocence" and "Experience," after Blake's volume-that pivot between Nan's past and present, this dazzling, warmhearted novel contemplates selflessness and saving, deep love and what makes a monster. Ages 8-12. Agent: Joe Regal, Regal Hoffmann & Assoc. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

As a climbing girl in Victorian London, forced up into dangerous, narrow chimneys to sweep out the soot for her abusive master, Wilkie Crudd, Nan Sparrow leads a miserable life. But she has precious memories of the Sweep, the man who cared for hertold her stories and gave her food, made her believe in magic and kept her warmuntil the morning he vanished five years earlier. The Sweep left Nan two things: his hat and a small lump of heat-radiating soot she calls the char. One day, she gets stuck in a flue, and her nemesis Roger cruelly lights a fire to give her the motivation to free herself. Nan nearly dies, but when she regains consciousness, she finds that the char has saved her. The fire has awakened the soot creature; he and Nan escape from the cruel Crudd and secretly make a home in an abandoned mansion, where Nan works to protect the kind and gentle Charlie. As he grows to monstrous proportions, Nan must hide him from view and thus from harm, with the question always in her mind: Had she saved Charlie? Or had Charlie saved her? Her mudlark friend Toby tells her: Thats how it works, doesnt it? We are saved by saving others. Weaving together strands of Jewish folklore (Nan calls Charlie a soot golem), Blakes Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, Shelleys 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. anita l. burkam (c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

New York Review of Books Review

THERE'S UNDENIABLE ENTERTAINMENT in watching an all-powerful Superman dish out justice to the bad guys. But it can be even more satisfying to see the job done by a hero without laser vision or invincibility or even much in the way of muscles. This is why underdogs work so well in children's literature, where, to the target readership, everything from a school bully to a burdensome homework assignment can feel as overwhelming as a supervillain. IS THERE ANY MORE classic underdog than the Victorian orphan? By all rights, Nan Sparrow - the spunky yet snarky protagonist of Jonathan Auxier's sweep (Amulet, 368 pp., $18.99; ages 8 to 12) - shouldn't even be alive, let alone leading a chimney sweep uprising. As if growing up female in 19th-century London weren't hard enough on its own, Nan's job keeps her perpetually filthy, malnourished, deprived of affection and forced to squeeze into lung-blackening spaces tight enough to give a hamster claustrophobia. (In what is sure to be a blow to Mary Poppins fans, the author's afterword explains how real-life sweeps had it even worse than those in the book.) Yet Nan perseveres. Granted, she's got the help of a magical soot golem. If you've ever wondered what Frosty the Snowman would be like if he were made of cinders and had awesome fire powers, that's Charlie the golem: a gift bequeathed to Nan by the kindly sweep who raised her among England's rooftops. Nan believes Charlie is meant to be her protector, but the creature is himself a childlike naif who needs Nan as much as she needs him, especially in a society that refuses to see him as anything but a monster. Many of the most entertaining and touching scenes involve Nan schooling Charlie on everything from the alphabet to the weather. ("I broke the snow!" Charlie cries when the flakes melt against his hot cinder hands.) When juxtaposed with flashbacks of the old Sweep raising Nan, these bits add a layer of beautifully bittersweet parenthood allegory to a tale that is both uplifting and heartbreaking. When Charlie has an "Of Mice and Men" moment, accidentally crushing a baby bird, readers are torn between sympathy, frustration and fear for the future of this oddly beautiful little family. But as one character wisely says about caring for others, "If you're not afraid, you're not doing it right." DANIEL JOSÉ older also uses the 1800s orphan theme in DACTYL HILL SQUAD (Scholastic, 256 pp., $16.99; ages 8 to 12), but he Ups the threat level significantly by placing his parentless protagonists square in the middle of the American Civil War. This is an alternate history, however, taking place in a world where dinosaurs escaped extinction. Triceratops pull wagons down cobblestone streets, iguanodons lift lamplighters to gas-powered lanterns, microdactyls deliver messages like toothier carrier pigeons, and, on a much less whimsical note, gun-toting gangs of hooded men spread terror from the saddled backs of raptors and ankylosaurs. Older fascinatingly blends thunder-lizard thrills with lesser-known but important aspects of American history. He starts the action (and then never really stops it) with a real-life incident: the burning of the Colored Orphan Asylum during the Draft Riots of 1863, when mobs of white New Yorkers, angered by their conscription into the Union Army, turned violently against their black neighbors. Suddenly homeless, the children face perils including the Kidnapping Club, a Jurassified version of a real gang who abducted free black people to sell into slavery. Aided by a pair of African-American Shakespearean actors (whose theater has also been torched), the young friends seek safe haven in the minority community of Dactyl Hill. Readers will adore Magdalys Roca, who becomes the de facto leader of the orphans, thanks to her unique ability to telepathically communicate with the dinosaurs. Far from a natural hero, Magdalys displays a realistic mix of terror and gumption in the face of the monsters around her, reptilian and human. Where else will her adventures carry her? There's another installment of this mind-bendingly original series coming, sure to be eagerly awaited. K. E. ORMSBEE'S THE HOUSE IN POPLAR WOODS (Chronicle, 344 pp., $16.99; ages 8 to 12) gives us three underdogs for the price of one. And while none may be full-on orphans, they've all got serious family issues. First, we have the Vickery twins, Lee and Felix, whose parents were bamboozled into signing a Faustian contract that has forever separated them. Now Mr. and Mrs. Vickery serve as apprentices to Death and Memory, respectively (yes, the literal personifications of those concepts - and they are capital-C Creepy), and although they live under the same roof, they remain eternally invisible to each other. Same goes for the brothers. Each is assigned to one parent, and they only see each other outside the house. It's a rough way to grow up. Until our third underdog comes into their lives - the rule-flouting iconoclast Gretchen Whipple, the black sheep of her own family, which has been embroiled in a generations-long Hatfield-and-McCoy-esque feud with the Vickerys. Gretchen goads the twins into helping her solve a murder mystery in which the prime suspect is Death itself. The boys are skeptical ("What do you mean? Death kills everyone"), but eventually realize that if they can prove Death has broken the rules and taken people before their appointed times, they might be able to nullify the diabolical contract that divides their family. Atmospheric and gripping, the book offers a boldly original take on the Grim Reaper concept, but never sacrifices entertainment for metaphysics (even while raising some thought-provoking questions). Ormsbee does a masterly job of juggling perspectives, keeping all the children distinct and fascinating in their own ways, while never losing the page-whipping pace of her well-crafted plot. THE ASSASSINATION OF BRANGWAIN SPURGE (Candlewick, 544 pp., $24.99; ages 10 and up), by M. T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin, presents us with two "heroes" who are as un-Superman as one could get. One - Werfel, the goblin archivist - is more akin to Kal-El's scientist dad on Krypton, who knew what was going on but got ignored by his people and, well, we know how that turned out. The counterpart to Werfel is the titular Spurge, a scholarly envoy from the elf kingdom sent to deliver a peace offering to their age-old foes in hopes of a truce between the nations. In reality, Spurge has agreed to be a spy for his people - a hapless, naive, socially awkward spy, but a spy nonetheless. When Werfel - a lovable dork who adheres to the goblin credo that "hospitality was holy" - attempts to introduce the elf to goblin culture, things don't go as planned. The story is not only presented from two distinct viewpoints, it uses two distinct methods. In a brilliant storytelling device, Werfel's side of the tale comes to us in prose, while Spurge's comes in pictures - the elf's own mental images, which he secretly transmits to his superiors via magic spell. It's an ingenious way of showing how fear and xenophobia can affect someone's impressions of the unfamiliar. A traditional goblin dance, for instance, takes on the aura of a violent ritual in Spurge's mind's eye, and a parade of children looks like a wild army. Even Werfel himself, who tells readers he is shorter than his elfish guest, appears as a hulking monster in the illustrations. Yelchin's art, evocative of kookily surreal medieval woodcuts, is perfectly suited to the task. The book, which is on this year's National Book Award long list, is at times both moving and hilarious. Spurge is not just an unlikely hero - it's hard to know if he's a hero at all. But that only makes the finale of this political satire all the more surprising. Even more than if Clark Kent had been sent to spy for the elves. CHRISTOPHER HEALY is the author of the Hero's Guide trilogy. The first book in his new series, "A Perilous Journey of Danger & Mayhem: A Dastardly Plot," has just been published.



"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. Excerpted from Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.