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Will Sparrow's Road

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  775 ratings  ·  199 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 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 ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published November 6th 2012 by Clarion Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.49  · 
Rating details
 ·  775 ratings  ·  199 reviews

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May 29, 2013 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
Jun 19, 2012 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!
Jan 06, 2013 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.
Donna LaValley
Apr 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Once again author Karen Cushman has created a memorable book for younger readers with an endearing character, a boy this time, in 1599. Will is small of stature and has had many sorrows, starting with the disappearance of his mother, followed a few years later when his father sold him to an innkeeper for drink. Kept hungry and worked like a slave, he steals a meat pie and is told he will be punished by being re-sold to the chimney sweeper. Such children die of black lung and have a short, misera ...more
Nov 04, 2012 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
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
Mar 20, 2013 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.
Jul 26, 2012 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.
A wonderful, short tale of a runaway boy in rural Elizabethan England. Lovingly sprinkled with the colorful curses and insults of the contemporary dialect, and full of tricksters and con artists of many sorts: sometimes less sympathetic, sometimes more so--the protagonist included. (I think this may actually be Cushman's first ever book with a male protagonist.)

A quick read, and an easy delight.
Claire (Book Blog Bird)
This one dragged more than the author’s other books. The characters and plot were a bit too flat. Not terrible, but not as good as her other books.
A quick read, absolutely charming.

You know, I love Karen Cushman. She writes historical fiction and writes it well. I've read most of her books, and I like them! Her books are always well researched, and I don't recall being pulled out of the story by any glaring mistakes.

Times were hard back then, but instead of writing gritty stories in which all the characters are living in abject misery, (like quite a few of the historical novels I've read recently) she writes things the way they are. Peopl
Nov 19, 2014 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.
Edward Sullivan
Apr 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
A lively, colorful adventure with lots of wonderful characters set in Elizabethan England.
Christy Rawson
Jan 27, 2016 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.
May 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Karen Cushman is a wonder!
Mar 12, 2013 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
Teancum Tukuafu
Nov 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
If you're interested in books like Tom Sawyer then this is the book for you. This book is of the life of Will Sparrow who gets into a fair bit of trouble. The author is Karen Cushman, born and raised in Southern California, was an adjunct professor in a Museum studies department in San Francisco and won the Newbery Honor.
Book review number three:

There were many plot twists in this book in how the main character is betrayed, the very first one is where he gets to trust a new person that he meet
Karen GoatKeeper
Dec 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Will Sparrow was sold to an inn keeper for ale. When the inn keeper plans to sell him as a chimney sweep - a death sentence at that time -, Will bolts. He meets characters along the way. Most aren't very savory. All are trying to get by in a time when the poor had a hard time of it.
Medieval times were very different from anything we are familiar with today. Will ends up traveling with a wagon of Curiosities and Proteges that includes a dwarf and a girl covered with hair.
The story is compelling.
Aug 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
The setting is England, 1599. Will Sparrow, age 12, is a self-described liar and thief. His father has sold him to an innkeeper in exchange for drink. His mother abandoned him. When the innkeeper threatens to sell him to be a chimneysweep, Will flees. We follow him as he tries to find food, and a new life, on the road.

I enjoyed this YA novel for its simplicity and charm. Will, understandably, lacks self-confidence and a sense of self-worth. He is tricked and taken advantage of time and again for
Jul 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: overdrive-audio
This is a series of adventures in learning about human nature as experienced by a young runaway in Elizabethan England. The plot itself is the weakest part of this character-driven tale, but the reading by the late Katherine Kellgren was fabulous. Granted, this is MG fiction, so the plot taking place in a series of vignettes works well for that age group and allows for reading in short bursts of time.

As an aside, Ms. Kellgren could make the weekly shopping list sound exciting and musical...

n 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 ...more
Renae Bowling
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good historical fiction by Cushman

Will Sparrow is running away from his life. Who could blame him? His mother has been gone since he was a baby and his drunken father sold him to an inn keeper for drinks.
He has to escape before he ends up being sold to a chimney sweep and spending his life breathing coal dust and dying young. Unfortunately Wills father is not the only adult he meets who uses him as a commodity.
This historical fiction set in traveling fairs in England is very accessible and qui
Feb 08, 2018 rated it liked it
I liked this book, but it definitely isn't at the same level as some of Cushman's previous novels (notably "The Midwife's Apprentice" and "Catherine, Called Birdy"). As always, though, the inner world is replete with historical details that draw the reader in and make the whole feel both very real and very relatable. Specifically, Will's starvation state (and so his connection to food) really makes one crave things like porridge and hard-boiled eggs. Can't think of a better way to put the reader ...more
Stephanie Ricker
A cool little story, but wow, does Katherine Kellgren drive me nuts. I know some people love her audiobook narration, but her style just really irks me. Also, this book, while better than Meggy Swan did not quite have the appeal of The Midwife's Apprentice. A lot of Cushman's characters aren't particularly likable initially but develop over the course of the book. Will Sparrow does grow, but I didn't relate to him as much.
Aug 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio-book
I'm a Karen Cushman fan. I love how she teaches history by showing her readers what the life of an everyday person is like. It was fun getting a glimpse of what it might have been like to be a traveling performer. Her characters are always interesting and engaging. You love the good guys and really dislike the bad ones. Great audio book narration.
C.J. Milbrandt
Will is a liar, a thief, and a runaway who only looks out for himself. But he's beginning to understand that you can't trust what a person promises any more than you should put stock in how a person looks. Oddities and rarities and misfits. Good and bad and belonging.

An intriguing historical with honest characters doing the best they can in a less-than-perfect world.
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Another charming life of the poor in the long ago centuries of England's past, and the hard life of orphaned or forgotten, abandoned children, and the way they must go to survive. Karen has a wonderful way of telling the story and getting the characters right. Love this
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: august2017
The first third was a bit too bleak and picaresque for my liking, but the cast of characters in the freak show won me over. The plot twist toward the end was a little too didactic, but overall, I enjoyed the book.
Will's dad had sold him to a tavern. Will runs away and somehow joins a group of oddities traveling from fair to fair.

This book made me recall Avi's "Crispin"
and Sid Fleischman's book "The Wiipping Boy"
Sep 24, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed another book by the author. This one was ok, but it was the narration that kept me listening. Definitely for younger audience and probably more exiting for a younger audience, perhaps a kid who loves all the adventure in the story.
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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

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