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Review: Will Sparrow’s Road December 26, 2012

Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.

Will Sparrow's RoadIt sounds fun, in theory: Travel on your own! No adults telling you when to go to bed or to do your chores! But the road in Elizabethan England is a dangerous place when you are a boy on your own. Yes, it’s better than taking abuse from the innkeeper your father sold you to, or suffering chest illness as a chimney sweep. But the nights are cold, meals are few and far between and almost no one can be trusted.

Still, Will Sparrow soldiers on in Karen Cushman’s latest charming historical middle grade novel. Cushman, who added spunky medieval girls to the Newbery canon with her books Catherine, called Birdy and The Midwife’s Apprentice, has moved forward  to the time of the Virgin queen with last year’s Alchemy and Meggy Swan and now Will Sparrow’s Road. Will is looking for a new life and after several mishaps, joins a group of ‘oddities’–a little person named Fitz and a cat-girl named Grace who are shown off along with other strange creatures by Master Tidball. Together they travel from fair to fair, along with magicians, animal trainers and jugglers. Some travel for the fun of it and the excitement of the crowds, while others are in search of a home and a place of safety. Will learns that even those who seem most different from him at first have similar needs and aspirations.

The theme of ‘Don’t judge others by how they look’ is perhaps a little too obvious, but Cushman has created a strong, believable character in Will, who displays all the bravado and swagger of a pre-teen boy and he doesn’t change easily. Readers will enjoy the period details, especially the many descriptions of food and cheer Will on as he finally comes to realize who his true friends and supporters are.


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