Back to some Cybils books while I tabulate more end-of-year things.
Sweep: the Story of a Girl and her Monster by Jonathan Auxier. Amulet Books, 2018.
Nan Sparrow lived with the Sweep, a kindly man who took care of her, teaching her the chimney sweep trade, and making story soup for her when they couldn’t find food. But he disappeared, leaving behind only a small char that always stayed warm. Then, Nan found work as one of the gang of mostly boys working for the cruel Crudd, who wouldn’t hesitate to light a fire under a kid stuck in a chimney to “encourage” them to find a way out. Then her char grows into a living, talking creature made of char – Charlie – and she knows she has to get away from Crudd for both their sakes.
The story is filled with the good and bad of Victorian London, painting a well-researched and captivating picture. There are also lots of memorable characters, including Nan’s mudlark friend and admirer Toby Squall and Miss Bloom, the kind teacher at a private school – both of them keeping their Jewishness a secret from almost everyone except Nan. There’s the cruel Crudd, the sweet and innocent new sweep boy Newt, and most marvelously, Charlie the soot golem. An afterward explains the origins of the story, the horrible truth of child sweeps in Victorian London, and the sad truth that child labor continues to this day.