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 the “monsters” and resolving to be on guard against further deceptions. At last Will is forced to understand that appearances are misleading and that he has been his own worst deceiver. The rowdy world of market fairs in Elizabethan England is the colorful backdrop for Newbery medalist Cushman’s new comic masterpiece.”
Elizabethan England has never been more rough, tough, and scandalous than in thirteen-year-old Will Sparrow’s journey. Liar and thief (by self-appointed trade) Will runs away from an abusive innkeeper and into a life on the streets. After hooking-up with a band of “oddities and prodigies,” who earn their living as part of a traveling fair, Will learns the secrets to surviving on the streets, and is forced to come to terms with his own shadows along the way.
I love what Cushman achieves in this novel; from the very first page she weaves together an unforgettable journey that is not only about one child’s monetary survival, but more importantly, it’s about the survival of his heart. It’s about the aftermath of betrayal and the courage it takes to trust again. It’s about finding and claiming a family of one’s own. It’s about real emotions, real humor, and real people.
I loved the sincerity found among the dirty streets of beggars and thieves. For history lovers and admirers of old England’s past, I highly recommend the journey.