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Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster    by Jonathan Auxier order for
by Jonathan Auxier
Order:  USA  Can
Puffin, 2018 (2018)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Here's a remarkable, and lyrical, new Dickensian YA fantasy, Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier. Dickensian because the story centers on the plight of young chimney sweeps in Victorian London. Fantasy because the monster is a golem, created to protect the girl who raises it from a 'small clump of ash or coal or soot'.

The girl was raised by the Sweep, who mentored her, protected and fed her, taught her to read, and told her magical stories that made their hard life bearable ... 'With brush and pail and soot and song! / A sweep brings luck all season long!' But then one day, when she was six, the Sweep disappeared from Nan's life, leaving only his hat and the fist-sized clump of coal/ash/soot that she treasured.

Nan ends up in cruel Master Crudd's crew, the only girl among them. Life is hard, food scarce. One day, what every chimney sweep dreads happens. A distracted Nan gets stuck and her rival and nemesis, Roger, sets a fire under her. She burns, but survives, thanks to the small entity that her Sweep left with her. As the Sweep raised her, so Nan in turn raises and loves the innocent creature she calls Charlie.

They have many adventures, often shared with Jewish Toby (whom the Sweep also rescued) and who 'had followed Nan around like a stray puppy ever since.' Nan also gets to know a teacher, Miss Bloom, who shares books of poetry with her, and tells her about golems. But though Nan hoped her supposed death had freed her from Roger and Master Crudd, they still seek her.

It all comes to a thrilling conclusion with the chimney sweepers' annual May Day Parade, after which Nan hears her beloved Sweep's last story. Don't miss this amazing novel (note that it will not be released till Fall 2018) and be sure to read the Author's Note at the end, Story Soup, that shares the ingredients blended into his wonderful tale, as well as his Historical Note.

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