Will Sparrow's Road
by Karen Cushman
Clarion, 2012. 216 pgs. Historical Fiction.
Unlike Ms. Cushman's Newbery and Newbery Honor winning books, her latest features a boy in the title role. Will Sparrow has been sold into servitude by his father in exchange for ale from the local tavern keeper. Will, an acknowledged liar and thief, steals one too many meat pies from his boss, and the man decides to sell him for a chimney sweep in London. Will runs away, knowing that, as a rule, sweeps live short, unhappy lives before dying of black lung. With no money, nothing to eat, and no one to care for him, Will takes to the road where he is occasionally helped along by kind-hearted folk but more often taken advantage of by con artists and tricksters. Will decides to care for "no one but myself, and nothing but my belly," but fortunately falls in with some itinerant Fair folk who travel from place to place exhibiting "oddities and prodigies" for the few pennies given them by curiosity seekers. At first Will Sparrow's Road seems like not much more than an interesting catalogue of Elizabethan life, but by and by Will comes to care very much for some of his companions, and when he has to choose between running away from a terrible punishment, or returning to stand by his friends, he chooses the right road. The audiobook of this title is particularly well done, read by Katherine Kellgren.