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Will Sparrow's Road

3.41  ·  Rating Details  ·  574 Ratings  ·  158 Reviews
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 atlying and thieving. Then he reluctantly joins a traveling troupe of "oddities," including a dwarf anda cat-faced girl, holding himself apart from t ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published November 6th 2012 by Clarion Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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Wonder by R.J. PalacioThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine ApplegateThe Fault in Our Stars by John GreenLiar & Spy by Rebecca SteadThe Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
Newbery 2013
71st out of 113 books — 1,206 voters
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFeversScarlet by A.C. GaughenCode Name Verity by Elizabeth WeinClockwork Prince by Cassandra ClareThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
YA Historical Fiction 2012
73rd out of 126 books — 800 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,312)
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Feb 04, 2013 Wendy rated it liked it
Nothing really wrong with this book, but the concept felt so tired that I had trouble maintaining interest.

6/19/12: Oh, good lord. If precedence means anything, this is likely to become the fourth Newbery winner about an orphaned or semi-orphaned boy traveling through medieval England meeting colorful characters typical of the period. Edit: Ah, but this is ELIZABETHAN. Entirely different. Pardon!
Mar 20, 2013 Frances rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this. The pairing of the marvelous Katherine Kellgren for Karen Cushman's writing is perfect. Will is alternately spunky, confused, elated, and despondent-- just right for a 13-year-old boy. His transformation is believable, and the Elizabethan setting is both rich and interesting.
Jan 06, 2013 Laura added it
Liked it, but not a lot to say about it. I think the thing that will stick with me most is from the author's note where she says that she realized that if she was going to write a story about a kid on the road alone in Elizabethan England, it had to be a boy because a girl would never make it. Yikes.
Jun 19, 2013 Mara rated it really liked it
Cover Blurb: Yes or No? It's very indicative of the book's era and what sort of novel it will be, but I'm not a huge fan of the cover art. There's something about it that just doesn't quite appeal to me.

Characters: Will Sparrow is not the kindest nor most honest boy around. He can be rude, a bit mean, and will steal the first opportunity he gets. Despite this, I found Will to be an altogether likable protagonist. He is rarely intentionally mean to other people, and he has the capability of becom
A short but not necessarily quick read about a neglected boy who comes to value others and himself after being thrown in with a group of misfits in Elizabethan England. Karen Cushman excels in writing tight, often-funny stories about kids growing up in a difficult time in history. She doesn't mince words on how rough it was to grow up during the Black Death, general lawlessness, great superstition and more. Adults and children alike led hard lives, but the author writes about her characters with ...more
David Rawson
Feb 03, 2016 David Rawson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Karen Cushman does it again!

I enjoyed this coming of age story. I loved how Will came to see the worth of others, but his own as well.
Sep 17, 2015 Amanda rated it liked it
Shelves: will-sparrow
it is good
May 01, 2016 Sophie rated it it was ok
This review is from my eighth grade language arts class, so please forgive the problematic writing.

Karen Cushman’s latest novel, Will Sparrow’s Road, revolves around Medieval Times. The Medieval Times, also known as the “Middle Ages,” occurred throughout Europe and was between the Fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance. It went on from approximately 500 to 1500 using the current way we track our time. The Medieval Times was a great period of worship of the Christian belief. The idea of “He
Feb 10, 2014 Rebecca rated it liked it
In 1599, Will, who had been sold to an innkeeper for ale, steals one too many pies and flees the threat of being sold as a climbing boy (chimney sweep). Wandering the countryside, duped by one trickster after another, Will ends up with Master Tidball and his travelling oddities. Although most of the oddities are pieced-together creatures in flasks, the group also includes a belligerent dwarf named Fitz, and a hair-covered girl named Grace. As Will spends more time with them, he comes to realize ...more
Dec 01, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it
Will Sparrow is an orphan in medieval England who joins a traveling show. Based on true facts of about the time. This books brings to light how people in that era abused people with disabilities and made them to feel less than they are. A good YA read for all.
Miss Amanda
gr 5-8

1599, England. After escaping from the innkeeper to whom his father had sold him, 12 year old Will Sparrow travels in search of food and safety. Will quickly learns to trust no one. When he ends up at a fair, he meets Master Tidball who promises him wages and food in turn for helping gather crowds to see his collection of oddities. At first impression, Will feels that Master Tidball is trustworthy, while his oddities, a "dwarf" Lancelot Fitzgeorffrey and a wild half-cat half-girl named Gr
Dec 30, 2012 Hallie rated it really liked it
Not one of my top Cushman's, but that still leaves room for this to have been a lovely read. Part of it may have been just that it reads younger than some of the others.
Edward Sullivan
Apr 18, 2012 Edward Sullivan rated it really liked it
A lively, colorful adventure with lots of wonderful characters set in Elizabethan England.
Mar 09, 2015 Peterm44 rated it liked it
In the book Will Sparrow's Road, a twelve year old boy named Will runs away from an innkeeper. The innkeeper got Will because Will's father sold him to the innkeeper for beer. Will, who calls himself a liar and a thief, runs away because he HATES the innkeeper. He runs as far away from the innkeeper as possible, stumbling upon many new characters, including Nell Liftpurse,a liar and a thief, Doctor Hieronymus Munster, and other dangerous people. I rated this book 3 out of 5 stars because as some ...more
Jun 23, 2015 Katie rated it it was ok
The book has its predictable moments, but just because a story is predictable at times, it isn't bad. And it wasn't wholly predictable - the individuals that Will ends up choosing as his family are not the ones I initially expected him to end up with.

It's also nice to get a bit of behind-the-scenes view of the fairs/markets of the time. It's not an area that historical fiction really deals with (that I'm aware of).

Will himself is fun to read, even if he seems a bit gullible at times. But that'
Oak Lawn Public Library - Youth Services
Lexile Level: NA

Pages: 214

Summary: Elizabethan Will Sparrow runs away from a difficult life, and is only interested in where his next meal is coming from. He meets a variety of people and has some very unusual escapades as he grows, learns and finds a new family.

Comments: I’ve enjoyed Cushman’s books for years (The Midwife’s Apprentice, Catherine Called Birdy); so I was delighted to read this story with a boy protagonist instead of a girl. It seemed to start out rather slowly, but as soon as he
Apr 06, 2013 Dianah rated it it was amazing
Karen Cushman is a wonder!
Mar 24, 2013 Josiah rated it liked it
"Small things are so easy to lose, he thought: stones and apples and buttons. And hope."

Will Sparrow's Road, PP. 34-35

It pleases me so to be able to say this book is vintage Karen Cushman, at least as fascinating, insightful and emotionally engaging as any of her Newbery material. In Will Sparrow's Road, Karen Cushman has done what she does best: recreate a wholly authentic environment from a period in history that isn't much written about, take all the necessary pains to be completely accur
Brandy Painter
Dec 21, 2012 Brandy Painter rated it really liked it
Originally posted at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.

Karen Cushman is well known for her historical fiction novels. She is the author of the Newbery Award winning The Midwife's Apprentice and the Newbery Honor book Catherine Called Birdy. Her latest historical fiction, Will Sparrow's Road, is the first time she has told a story from the male point of view. It also tells the tale of a way of life not often explored in historical fiction.

The road Will travels in this story in not at all a typical
Dec 27, 2012 Phoebe rated it liked it
Shelves: juv, historical, adventure
Will Sparrow is an undersized, feisty 13-year-old whose mother abandoned him early on, and whose father sold him to the innkeeper in exchange for free beer for life. But Will has had enough, and runs away, without boots or food or any idea where he is going. Ill luck and starvation dog him, until he finds uncertain sanctuary in a fair as a magician's helper. Then the magician too is gone, but Will hires himself on to Master Tidball, whose traveling show of oddities and wonders features a dwarf, ...more
Ms. Yingling
Oct 15, 2013 Ms. Yingling rated it it was ok
In England in 1599, Will Sparrow's father has traded him to the owner of a tavern for ale, and when the owner doesn't like Will's work, he threatens to sell him to be a chimney sweep. Will runs away, and meets a host of odd characters, from pickpocket Nell, to toothpuller Dr. Munster, to illusionist Tobias Froggenhall, with whom he thinks he will work, until the illusionist leaves him with Thomas Tidball, who runs a circus of oddities. Will travels the countryside with the show, meeting Grace, t ...more
Oct 30, 2012 Dawn rated it liked it
Will Sparrow is a liar and a thief ... and he's hungry. His drunken father sold him; the innkeeper who bought him wants to sell him again when Will is caught stealing food; and after Will runs away, he meets a string of people he gruffly insists he doesn't care for or trust, but who lure him and his empty belly into helping them anyway. And it all seems for naught, as time and again Will is cheated, tricked and abandoned.

But then Will meets a small band of odd people: a foul-tempered dwarf; a ha
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 w ...more
Rating Clarification: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

My Summary: At the age of thirteen, Will Sparrow runs away from 'home' and sets out on his own adventure after his father sells him to an innkeeper for beer. Although he isn't the brightest or the quickest, Will is determined to make a better life for himself by doing what he can. Along the way he meets people who do what he aspires to: steal, chea
Dec 04, 2012 Liviania rated it really liked it
Newberry Award medalist Karen Cushman's newest novel is also her first featuring a male protagonist. Will Sparrow's father sold him to an innkeeper for ale, but now Will is striking out on his own, determined to lie, steal, and cheat his way to a better life. Unfortunately for Will, he isn't half as hard as he thinks he is.

I think even less experienced readers (aka the kiddos this book is aimed at) will realize that Will isn't the most perceptive spyglass on the binocular shelf. (I really wanted
Oct 06, 2012 Ramie rated it really liked it
Circus stories seem to be big now. Whether they take place in space, the great depression, or in this case are just side shows at street fairs in Elizabethan England.

Before we get to that street fair however we obviously need a runaway. Will Sparrow has every reason to run away and join the circus. His mother has left him, his father has sold him for drink, the innkeeper he's been sold to is about to re-sell him into a more dangerous job. On the road young Will learns that perhaps stealing food
Margo Tanenbaum
Nov 26, 2012 Margo Tanenbaum rated it really liked it
Newbery-award winning novelist Karen Cushman is an expert writer of historical novels for youth, and is particularly drawn to tales set in "merry old England." I use this phrase a bit ironically, since one of the features of Cushman's writings is that she does not shirk from describing the hardships of life at that time, particularly for those children in the lower classes. Her newest book differs from all her past novels by featuring a boy as a protagonist rather than her usual feisty girl hero ...more
Feb 15, 2013 Annette rated it really liked it
Shelves: juvenile-fiction
Since I am a fan of Karen Cushman, I was delighted to see that she had written a new book and was especially delighted to see that the main character is a boy (a first for this author). However, she returned to her comfort zone for the setting as she is the Queen Bee of Medieval children's lit. If you liked Midwife's Apprentice, Matilda Bone or Catherine Called Birdy this one will not disappoint.

Like her female characters, Will is feisty and ends up striking out on his own. Very early in the bo
Carol Baldwin
Jan 11, 2013 Carol Baldwin rated it it was amazing
I have been a Karen Cushman fan ever since reading The Midwife's Apprentice , Catherine, Called Birdy, and Alchemy and Meggy Swann. Since all her books feature spunky characters in medieval England and are expertly written, I was excited to hear of the release of her new book, Will Sparrow's Road.

From the opening of this middle grade book, readers discover that Will Sparrow, a small 13-year-old boy in 16th century England, is a runaway without a family or penny to his name. He is fast, quick-th
In Elizabethan England, twelve-year-old Will Sparrow, who calls himself a liar and a thief out of necessity, runs away from the abusive innkeeper to whom his father sold him to pay off his drinking debts. After enduring betrayal after betrayal from those he encounters on the road, Will ends up traveling with a band of "oddities and prodigies" (p. 209) who are a part of the open-air fairs that spring up near large cities and towns. Not only can attendees purchase food, but they can also amuse the ...more
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Karen Cushman was born in Chicago, Illinois.

She entered Stanford University on a scholarship in 1959 and graduated with degrees in Greek and English. She later earned master’s degrees in human behavior and museum studies.

For eleven years she was an adjunct professor in the Museum Studies Department at John F. Kennedy University before resigning in 1996 to write full-time.

She lives on Vashon Isla
More about Karen Cushman...

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“My pains are but trifling things compared to my joy.” 3 likes
Me iudice, in my opinion, life is like juggling... Things come at you―balls, clubs, knives, sorrow, loss. Either you stand there and let them hit you or you throw them back pugnis et calcibus, with all your might.” 2 likes
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