As a reader, I have a strong pull toward girl heroines–if I were to break down the kid lit I read, probably 92% has a female MC or narrator. Also as a writer, I generally find inspiration in girl POVs. So I’ve been meaning to pick up more books that have boy voices. I’ve always loved reading Karen Cushman’s strong and interesting girl
protagonists, as well as her intricately researched historical fiction, so I was excited to read her first book with a male main
character: Will Sparrow’s Road.
“I care for no one but myself, and nothing but my belly,” says Will
Sparrow, the itinerant hero. He’s a tween boy making his way, alone, along a road and through the vibrant and sometimes dangerous world of 16th-century England. Will has good reason to care for his belly–he’s hungry and has to rely on cleverness and the occasional thievery for food. A plot summary from the Goodreads page:
In his thirteenth year, Will Sparrow, liar and thief, becomes a runaway. On the road, he encounters a series of con artists—a pickpocket, a tooth puller, a pig trainer, a conjurer—and learns that others are more adept than he at lying and thieving. Then he reluctantly joins a traveling troupe of “oddities,” including a dwarf and a cat-faced girl, holding himself apart from the “monsters” and resolving to be on guard against further deceptions. At last Will is forced to understand that appearances are misleading and that he has been his own worst deceiver. The rowdy world of market fairs in Elizabethan England is the colorful backdrop for Newbery medalist Cushman’s new comic masterpiece.
I really loved how this book worked as a classic picaresque (Comp Lit Nerd Alert, I know), in that Will had to live by his wits to survive in a somewhat harsh world–sometimes to comic effect. The plot had a great balance of being episodic (neat little scenes in which Will has a struggle, or does something clever; characters who flow in and out in a way consistent with Will’s chaotic life and the time period) and having a rewarding character arc. I also loved how, in true picaresque style, Cushman didn’t pull her punches in terms of the difficulties all people–including children–experienced during that time. The stakes were high for Will, and it made his successes that much more rewarding.
To see what other marvelous middle-grade books readers and writers are blogging about today, check out Shannon Whitney Messenger’s blog for the MMGM links!
I really want to read this one…I think a trip to the library is in order! Karen Cushman is a master at creating characters with lots of room to grow yet who are still so interesting to follow!
This is definitely going on my TBR list – I love historic MG, especially when it’s a boy book! And I’ll have to check out some of Cushman’s other stuff, too.
I haven’t read a middle grade novel in a long time. This looks interesting.
I blame my tendency to flock to a good romance (in nearly every type of YA there’s at least some) for why I don’t read as much MG as I should. I love historical and I love a good story in general, so I should try reading something like WILL SPARROW’S ROAD. I read CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY (also by Karen Cushman) in university for a kidlit course and really enjoyed it. 🙂
@Jaime, I loved CATHERINE CALLED BIRDY! One of my favorite historical MGs of all time.
I’m glad you featured this book today. It’s not one I normally would have picked up because, like you, I tend to read mostly female-centered (ROMANCE-centered!) books. But, I’m intrigued by WILL SPARROW and all his adventures, and I especially like that this story is meant to be comedic. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it!
I won this recently from Joanne at My Brain on Books and it is jumping to the top of my TBR pile. It sounds really interesting and a lot of fun.
Oh man, I NEED to read this. I loved Karen Cushman’s books when I was a kid. MG was my first love, because YA as we know it really wasn’t around when I was a young adult but MG has been great for a long time. This sounds awesome. Thanks for the review!
I recently heard about this one and now I see it again! It sounds like such a great book. I enjoy HF and will have to check it out. Thanks for sharing. 🙂