Monday, October 28, 2013

CYBILS REVIEW: Will Sparrow's Road by Karen Cushman


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.


Will Sparrow flees from the inn where he lives after the innkeeper threatens to sell him as a chimney sweep. But Will doesn't know what to do or where to go, so he just follows the roads he comes across. Along the way he meets people, a couple who are kind, the rest who just want to use him. Unfortunately for Will, despite his attempts to convince himself that he is tough and is only interested in filling his belly, turns out to be rather gullible.  He trusts people's promises only to find them worthless.  When he joins with the troupe of 'oddities' he thinks he knows who is who and what's going on, only to find that maybe he's wrong.

Strengths: Will is an interesting character, determined to survive but not particularly aggressive about doing so. He kind of goes with the flow of things, which it turns out isn't the best way to handle things.  He tries not to be too trusting but has a hard time seeing past appearances.  The story shows Will's personal growth as he searches for a place to be safe, warm, and full.  I found the characters quite believable and their behavior suitable for the time period.  As always, Karen Cushman creates a beautifully told story with a vivid picture of time and place.

Weaknesses: Sigh. I have such a hard time getting children to read historical fiction. Especially if it doesn't involve war.

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