Cushman, Karen. 2012. WILL SPARROW’S ROAD. New York: Clarion. ISBN 9780547739625 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-7]
Quick-witted, wiry Will Sparrow fends for himself by stealing and lying. Deserted by his mother and sold by his negligent father for a fill of ale, Will is constantly on the run. His path takes him along an English road where he scavenges for meals and meets various con artists that rival his skills for theft and deception. Eventually he makes his way to a fair where he connects with a blind juggler, a clever pig, and a group of “oddities” including a dwarf and a “cat girl” whose face is covered in hair. As he spends time with this band of misfits, Will begins to make friends and to look at the world through different, maturing eyes.
In her first novel starring a male protagonist, Cushman brings the reader into rich Elizabethan England, complete with the sights and smells of the bustling town fairs. In her trademark style, Cushman blends historical detail with interesting characters and makes the period accessible to the young reader. Will’s development is authentic and his plucky personality brings humor to the story. A note at the end provides additional information on the inspiration and facts behind the fiction.
Readers can research more about Elizabethan England and life in this time period, possibly that of a noble as opposed to that of a runaway. Information about market fairs can be gathered and a similar fair might be hosted in the library or classroom. William Shakespeare can be researched as well as the development of theater during this time.
Other novels about children living in the same time period:
Blackwood, Gary. THE SHAKESPEARE STEALER. ISBN 9780780799776
Cushman, Karen. ALCHEMY AND MEGGY SWANN. ISBN 9780547231846
By Jill Bellomy