Hopeful, Beautiful, Masterful
There is a special kind of magic revealed in a Jonathan Auxier novel. I have been completely smitten with his work since I read Peter Nimble and eagerly anticipated the launch of Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster. Sweep left me completely captivated. Everything about this book left me with a wonderful warm feeling after reading.
Auxier tells the story of Nan, a smart, resourceful, strong, flawed orphaned girl working as a chimney sweep in Victorian London and the soot golem who acts as her protector. There is some wonderful tenderness in the novel. Nan and Charlie (the monster) begin to forge a new life after an incident in a chimney. Throughout, Charlie teaches Nan to open her heart, to accept others into her life and to fight for her own. Charlie is not your typical monster. He is kind and generous, loving and supportive. He protects Nan with everything he has.
Jonathan Auxier provides the reader with a story full of hope. There are beautiful moments like Charlie’s decorating of the Nothing Room, the Sweep’s love for Nan, and Nan’s kindness towards the other child sweeps. There are also moments of great darkness like the Devil’s Nudge, and Roger’s family. For every darkness, there is light. It’s one of the things I love so much about Auxier’s writing, he never leaves us without hope, without light.
One of my highlights of the story is Story Soup. Story Soup was a way to survive for Nan and her Sweep. It was a way to pass the quiet hours that can become so dark for two poor sweeps trying to scrape out a living in a time when living was so incredibly hard. Nan would collect little bits of scraps throughout the day and when food was short they would feast on stories instead of food. Story Soup is an extraordinary element in the story. You can take the concept of Story Soup and bring it into any classroom or event. It can be a way of coming together to share sustenance, not of the nutritional kind but of the spiritual kind.
Jonathan Auxier is an ace storyteller, like J.K. Rowling, he hooks you into his stories from the first page. You root for the strong, imperfect characters and you vehemently dislike those that choose to do harm. There is an underlying message of standing up, for seeing injustice and speaking out no matter how big or small What an inspiring message for readers young and old today. To feel empowered to use their voices to stand up for injustice as Nan and her friends do.
Congratulations to Sweep and Jonathan Auxier for being honoured as this year’s Governor General’s Literary Award Winner for Young People’s Literature.