Sparrow Road
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Sparrow Road

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  963 ratings  ·  195 reviews
It's the summer before seventh grade, and twelve-year- old Raine O'Rourke's mother suddenly takes a job hours from home at mysterious Sparrow Road- a creepy, dilapidated mansion that houses an eccentric group of artists. As Raine tries to make sense of her new surroundings, she forges friendships with a cast of quirky characters including the outrageous and funky Josie.

Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 12th 2011 by Putnam Juvenile
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Class of 2k11
23rd out of 49 books — 146 voters
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Newbery 2012
37th out of 166 books — 642 voters

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This story is really sweet. The book blurb is a bit misleading. The creepy house feeling is so minor to the plot. It is really a story about family, love, missed opportunities and forgiveness. Three to four page chapters, well-written, a quick read. And, the author made the inhabitants of Sparrow Road, past and present, real people. I kept expecting a cliched ending to many of the plot twists, but it never happened. For a book aimed at middle-school readers, this is especially refreshing. And, t...more
Jessica Harrison
Full review on Cracking the Cover
“Sparrow Road” is an unexpected yet welcome surprise. Author Sheila O’Connor doesn’t rely on popular themes or storytelling trickery. Rather she uses her skills in character and scene development to tell a mature and engrossing story that celebrates middle readers’ intelligence.

O’Connor’s characters come to life under her careful tutelage. Josie, with her “rainbow colored hair” and patchwork dresses, is so full of life, she seems to jump off the page. And Diego b...more
Destinee Sutton
Things I liked:

1. The suspense of why Raine and her mother go to Sparrow Road for the summer. As I've said before, with everyday life fiction like this, it helps a lot to have some kind of mystery driving the plot and this really worked. Of course, the mystery is solved halfway through, but then you can kind of coast on the strength of the characters and relationships.

2. Raine's development as a writer. The way she asks herself questions like "What was and what will be?' and creates a characte...more
My daughter is reading this book, and I cannot get it out of her hands to read it myself. "I LOVE this book" is all she will say before returning to the basement to continue the story. Later: I really enjoyed this book, with its many mysteries that are carefully unfolded, like delicate origami papers, chapter after chapter. The heart of the book reminds me of Kate DiCamillio's Tiger Rising, as there is an eclectic group of adults supporting the coming-of-age girl, and the climax of the book is a...more
The History major in me is dying to know. When does this story take place? Here's my breakdown:
First, no mention of cellphones or internet= time <1995
Mama's "hippie" stint in Amsterdam= time >1969
Several mentions of "paisley" and peasant blouses= 1970's
Raine is 12, going on 13 + Mom (hippie)= late 70's to early 80's
Final result= 1978-1989
Still, it is a range.
Next, my major, major problem with this story is that it features a bunch of non-functioning adults who rely too much on a 12 year-o...more
It’s the summer before seventh grade,and twelve-year-old Raine O’Rourke’s mother suddenly takes a job hours away from home at mysterious Sparrow Road. At first Raine thinks its a creepy,weird mansion that houses eccentric group of artists. While Raine’s mother works as a cook and housekeeper Raine is left to figure out why she had really come to Sparrow Road.
After being there for a week Raines is thinking of how much she misses her Grandpa Mac and Milwaukee terribly. Soon after she is there for...more
Barb Middleton
When I saw that Sheila O'Connor was a professor at Hamline University where Gary Schmidt and Anne Ursu work I wondered if she would have strong characters like they do in their middle grade and young adult novels. She does. It is the main strength in this novel along with beautiful writing. The emotional arc of twelve-year-old Raine and the character development of secondary characters kept me going in this book. The plot was predictable and the action minimal, but the subplot had surprises and...more
Warning: Minor Spoilers! Read at your own risk!

"It's the summer before seventh grade, and twelve-year- old Raine O'Rourke's mother suddenly takes a job hours from home at mysterious Sparrow Road- a creepy, dilapidated mansion that houses an eccentric group of artists. As Raine tries to make sense of her new surroundings, she forges friendships with a cast of quirky characters including the outrageous and funky Josie.

Together, Raine and Josie decide to solve the mysteries of Sparrow Road-from its
Book Twirps
Twelve-year-old Raine is not happy. Her mother just took a summer job at an artist's sanctuary called Sparrow Road and she's forcing Raine to go with her. Raine would rather stay in Milwaukee with her Grandpa Mac, working in his store and eating all the candy she can get her hands on. It's always been that way, and she doesn't understand why it has to change now. To make matters worse, Sparrow Road has all sorts of rules, the worst being that you are not allowed to talk except for after dinner a...more
Donna Galanti
May 30, 2012 Donna Galanti rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: young adult and adult
Shelves: young-adult
I wish I could give this book a "blizzard of stars".

If there is one book you read this summer. This is it. This is the book that made me fall in love with reading again. 12-year-old Raine has an unexpected summer that at first she resists and as she transforms, and the people she meets transforms - it changes her life forever.

I read this coming-of-age book every free chance I got over two days. It is so beautifully written, like riding a slow, golden wave that builds and builds and covers all in...more
The jacket talks about the mystery of Sparrow Road, but the book is less about that than about Raine's transition from little girl to preteen. Sparrow Road was a mansion, then an orphanage, and is now a Yaddo-like artists residence (with rules like "no talking until dinner" and cabins for artistic creation). Raine isn't happy about being taken away from her Milwaukee home, less happy about the rules, and even less happy about Viktor and his mysterious relationship with Molly, Raine's mother.

Of c...more
Loved this book!!! My daughter is 12 years old and after she read the first chapter she laughed out loud, tapped her finger on the page and said, "this writer really understands girls my age!"

The world so desperately needs more books like Sparrow Road. I really don't think I've ever read anything quite like it. I was one of those girls sitting up in my bedroom feverishly writing poetry until 1 a.m. My parents couldn't quite figure me out. But if there had been a book like Sparrow Road...

The beau...more
Maybe I'd give this one three and a half stars if I could. The story follows 12-year-old Raine O'Rourke who has been unwillingly dragged by her mother to an artist's colony in the middle of nowhere. There's something mysterious about this new job her mother has acquired too. Why does her mom seem to know the owner so well? Why is Raine never allowed to go to town at any point, with or without her mother? And that's before she discovers Sparrow Road's true beginnings as an orphanage, with mysteri...more
I was blase about this whimsical book that was well reviewed by all the major journals (booklist gave it a star and even kirkus had nice things to say!) A whimsically written realistic fiction book for middle schoolers (probably girls)sends a positive message about art, family, and discovering who we are. Don't know why I didn't like it more. I'm usually a sucker for lyrically written books but I had to make an effort to finish this one. Be that as it may, I"d still give this book to readers who...more
The writing in this is generally great; you can tell O'Connor is an accomplished author, and there's none of the awkwardness you sometimes feel when adult authors try to cross over into juvenile. But somewhere in the second half of the book I felt like the thread of the story got lost and everything was sort of repetitious. That's what kept me from being really enthusiastic about it. I sort of... stopped caring when I saw where things were going.
Elizabeth Andrew
Wanted to like this book better than I did. A young girl spends the summer at an artists' colony, housed in a former orphanage, and finally meets her delinquent dad. I liked the wholesome qualities of the story--lots of forgiveness, creativity, and community celebration--but found the plot contrived, hinging mostly on a mother unwilling to tell her daughter information, and the characters too good.
A sweet story with a little mystery as well. The characters are well-developed and the scenes make you want to be a part of the story. What starts out as a terrible summer trip to a 12-year-old girl turns into a fun, mysterious, and happy oasis. The story discusses orphans and the sadness surrounding the orphanage but it doesn't overpower the positives of the story. Well balanced and a quick read.
I'm not going to do a review of this book in the proper sense of the word. I really struggled with rating this one at all. Sheila is a terrific writer (read Where No Gods Came) and was a good mentor to me when I was in graduate school. Since I've not read a lot of YA fiction, I wasn't sure what to expect. This book, I'm sure, will appeal to pre-teen and teen girls. Having said this, I don't think there's much here to invite young boys to read it, and the characters, in general, are disappointing...more
Honestly? It wasn't as good as it could have been. There was so much that could have been better defined (i.e. the relationship between her mother and father just for starters). It seemed like there was a bigger story here but we were just getting to read the outline. But that;s not to say it wasn't good, I just think it could have been so much more.
Saleena Davidson
Sparrow Road is one of those amazing books that's hard to's a book about family and about growing up and is such a pleasant quiet read that it never seemed like something I would enjoy....but I did. The story centers around an artist retreat where Raine and her mother go for the summer. Raine isn't sure why, but is positive she will be miserable in this quiet sleepy town....instead she bonds with the various artists and begins to discover her own talents. She also meets her biolo...more
Cathy Blackler
A charming story about family secrets, strength, and the power that comes with moving forward. Slow in spots, a strong finish made for a satisfying ending, wrapping up the events of the novel nicely.
Mary Lee
The first Cool Teacher in Children's Literature will be Lillian.
Sometimes, a book comes along and just grabs you by the heart and doesn't really let go. Oftentimes, those books are a whirlwind of emotion, going through all the ups and downs, and you finish the book with laughter and tears all around you. Sparrow Road grabbed me by the heart and didn't let go. But it didn't do it in a whirlwind. It was with understated and lighthearted tact, coming together to be the full story, told exactly as it needed to be.
Raine O'Rourke is a 12-year old (almost 13!) spen...more
12 year old Raine is unhappy about leaving her home and her dear Grandpa Mac the summer before 7th grade. She unwillingly accompanies her mother for 8 weeks to Sparrow Road. Sparrow Road is a mysterious ex-orphanage turned retreat for artists of all sorts where silence is expected of all residents from sun-up to sun-down six days a week. Raine's adolescent curiosity helps her begin to uncover some of the mystery of this strange place and its people.

Raine explores why she isn't allowed to go into...more
How would you feel if your mom took a new job and all of a sudden your summer changed? How would you feel if you found yourself at a strange dilapidated mansion populated by a few eccentric artists? You've got lots of questions, but you get no answers. You know Grampa Mac, back in Milwaukee, is angry about it. You know that your mom isn't telling you the whole truth. And Viktor, the guy driving the truck out from the train station, is less than friendly - he's almost creepy in fact.

That's how Ra...more
"This is going to take some brave from both of us." Those are Raine's mother's words to her as they leave Milwaukee and Grandpa Mac to spend the summer at an artist's retreat known as Sparrow Road. Upon their arrival they are greeted by the stoic caretaker, Viktor who lays out the rules for their stay: no talking until supper (except on Sundays), no TV, no radio, no newspaper and no music. Do nothing to disturb the artists in residence." Why would her mother want to come here? Raine is puzzled b...more
Raine and her mother are spending the summer at Sparrow Road and Raine is not happy about it. She doesn't want to leave her Grandpa Mac in Milwaukee and can't understand why her mom wants to be the housekeeper for an artists' retreat for the summer. Sparrow Road is very different; it was a mansion that became an orphanage that become a summer retreat for artists. It is run by creepy Viktor, the Iceberg, and houses an eclectic mix of artists: Josie the loud, crazy quilter, Diego the big bear of a...more
Alanna (The Flashlight Reader)
Synopsis from back cover: It’s the summer before seventh grade, and twelve-year-old Raine O’Rourke’s mother suddenly takes a job hours from home at mysterious Sparrow Road—a creepy, dilapidated mansion that houses an eccentric group of artists. While Raine’s mother works as the cook and housekeeper, Raine explores the sprawling estate, trying to solve its secrets in the hopes she’ll discover why she and her mother have really come to Sparrow Road, but it’s an unexpected secret from Raine’s own l...more
Elizabeth K.
More like three and a half stars. I don't think it was quite four, even though I liked the book a lot, and thought the writing was very good.

You know, one thing I have noticed about myself as an adult person who reads a lot of children's books is that sometimes, when mysterious things are afoot, my mind goes immediately to completely inappropriate and unlikely situations, even to the point where it will color my impression of the book. As an example, in this book the protagonist, 12 year old Rai...more
Kimberly Bower (gladeslibrarian)
The first day of summer holds such promise. For 12-year-old Raine O'Rourke that includes stacking shelves at Grandpa Mac's store, playing chess with Grandpa's best friend and eating all the popsicles and candy she wants. That's how Raine expects to spend this summer too. Instead, she finds herself far from Milwaukee. All of a sudden, her mom decides to take a summer job as a cook at an old mansion in the country. There goes Raine's hope for a fun summer.

Sparrow Road seems to be a summer camp, o...more
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“The worse the mess, the more I get to wonder.” 3 likes
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