Karen Cushman is well known for her historical fiction novels. She is the author of the Newbery Award winning The Midwife's Apprentice and the Newbery Honor book Catherine Called Birdy. Her latest historical fiction, Will Sparrow's Road, is the first time she has told a story from the male point of view. It also tells the tale of a way of life not often explored in historical fiction.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
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 road Will travels in this story in not at all a typical one, but it's an interesting one, as is Will himself. I enjoyed how Will learned so much and grew as a character on his journey. He takes most things at face value, and though boasting that he is a "liar and thief" is way too trusting and gullible. Will's journey is full of interesting people and places as well. The setting, that of a market fair, is true to life. The reader gets a very real sense of what such a life would have been like. The characters of the "oddities" Will befriends, Fin and Grace, are wonderful additions to Will's life and story. The plot is paced well and is full of action from page one. I always enjoy a book where an author grows a character and I get to know him well, but things are happening at the same time. I appreciate that this is a quick, short read too. I'm looking forward to book talking this one with my students and using it with Bit next year when we study this time period.