Book: Will Sparrow's Road
Author: Karen Cushman
Source: Local Library
Sold by his father for ale, mistreated by his new master, twelve-year-old Will Sparrow takes off, vowing to care only for himself. But the world of Elizabethan England isn't known for its kindness to the young and the vulnerable, and Will is taken advantage of time and again.
When he falls in with a most unusual group - a dwarf man, a cat-faced girl, their wagon full of oddities, and Tidball, the man who owns them all - Will thinks he's found a place to belong, at least for a little while. But how long can such a life last?
I love Karen Cushman's writing for the vivid way it brings history to life, but also for its complicated, realistic, and not always likeable main characters. Will is both hardened by life and tremendously naive, taking people at face value yet unsurprised when they betray him. Both of these qualities are things he has to unlearn in the course of the book. When he meets Fitz and Grace Wyse, he dismisses them as freaks and believes in his new master's promises of food and pay. But as Tidball breaks those promises over and over, and both Fitz and Grace prove to be more than the brawler and the monster Tidball calls them, he learns both to look beyond the surface and to trust that others will be there for him.
History is generally a hard sell for kids, and the first part of this book moves somewhat slowly. It picks up when he meets Tidball, but the changes in both Will and how he sees others still unfold at a gradual, if realistic pace.While it takes place four hundred years ago, Will's loneliness and his found family will strike a chord with kids willing to dive in.