Will Sparrow's Road
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Will Sparrow's Road

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3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  385 ratings  ·  124 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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Newbery 2013
71st out of 111 books — 995 voters
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YA Historical Fiction 2012
73rd out of 115 books — 618 voters


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Wendy
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!
Mara
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...more
Kristin
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
Rebecca
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
Frances
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.
Laura
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.
Edward Sullivan
A lively, colorful adventure with lots of wonderful characters set in Elizabethan England.
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...more
Josiah
"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...more
Brandy Painter
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...more
Phoebe
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
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
Dawn
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...more
Heidi
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
Stephanie
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...more
Liviania
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...more
Ramie
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...more
Margo Tanenbaum
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
Annette
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...more
Carol Baldwin
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...more
Barbara
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
Lahari
a. Historical Fiction

b. 216 pgs

c. Will Sparrow lives at the inn where his father sold him for money so he could buy ale. When he steals a meat pie the innkeepers sells him for a chimney sweep. Will runs away and goes to the fair. There he meets someone who tricks him and someone else who hires him and gives him money. From there he meets Mr. Tidball, who seems kind at first. Mr. Tidball runs a company of oddities whom he treats badly. Slowly Will realizes that Mr. Tidball is bad and helps the ot...more
Carol Price
Once again Karen Cushman has thoroughly researched the setting for her new book and created a memorable character in Will Sparrow’s Road. Set in 1599, Elizabethan England when market fairs included side shows of oddities or “freak shows” Cushman has written her first historical fiction novel with a male protagonist.
Thirteen year old Will Sparrow runs away from an abusive situation but has no money, no shoes and nowhere to go. He finds much hardship on the road running from the “wicked Irish” and...more
Susan
Finally, a Karen Cushman book with a boy for the main character! This book will appeal to boys about 11 to 12 years old and we all know it's hard to crack that group.

Young Will Sparrow was sold to an innkeeper by his father for beer. His mother disappeared years before and that started the downfall of his father into chronic alcoholism and abusive behavior. Young Will admits to being a liar and a thief and his only loyalty is to himself and his stomach.

Times were very hard in Elizabethan England...more
Kathy Martin
Will Sparrow's Road will give young readers a look at what life was like for a poor, young boy in Elizabethan England. Will's father is a drunk who sold him to an innkeeper in exchange for liquor. When Will steals a pie the innkeeper threatens to sell him to a man who will make him a chimney sweep. Will knows that this is a death sentence. So he runs away with no shoes and a blanket that smells of horse as his only possession.

Will meets a number of people along the road as he flees including a t...more
Libby Ames
Life in Elizabethan England is hard, but Will Sparrow believes it is hardest for him. Left by his mother, sold by his father, and threatened to be sold again, young Will takes to the road. He vows to “care only for [himself] and for nothing but [his] belly.” However, caring for himself is harder than he expected. Will continually trusts the wrong people and consistently finds trouble. When he eventually joins up with a traveling fair group of “oddities and prodigies,” Will learns important life...more
Sam
By the end of the first page of Will Sparrow's Road, it's established beyond question that twelve-year-old Will Sparrow has had a hard life, and that it's made him hard in return. Sold by his father, and about to be sold again by the innkeeper for whom he has worked, Will makes his escape and runs away. Where is he going? Will has no idea, only that he wants to be as far as possible from everywhere he's ever been.

Along the way, Will is repeatedly forced to ask himself questions about trust. Can...more
Kelly
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jennifer
So this was an okay read, normally I'm pretty happy with any middle grade books that I read but this one is one that's most likely not going to stick with me. I'm not really sure. The writing was good, the story was good but something was missing for me to give it that push that would make me remember it forever. The story seemed a bit predictable maybe? I can't really put my finger on it.

Like I said though, I did enjoy the story. Will was an amusing kid who managed to survive alone on the road...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
More about Karen Cushman...
The Midwife's Apprentice Catherine, Called Birdy Matilda Bone Alchemy and Meggy Swann The Ballad of Lucy Whipple

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“My pains are but trifling things compared to my joy.” 2 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.” 1 likes
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