Review of “Sweep,” by Jonathan Auxier

I’m not going to lie, I did not want to read this book at first. I’m not a fan of historical fiction, and a story about monsters and chimney sweeps in England does not sound very appealing. But it’s highly rated and recommended, so I decided to give it a try.

To be honest, this was one of the very best historical fiction books I’ve read. Auxier creates a cold world of struggling characters trying to make a home amidst the cruelties of child labor, yet it’s one you don’t want to leave.

Nan Sparrow is a climber — a girl owned by a chimney sweep and forced to climb up tiny flues all day. Her master, Wilkie Crudd, is cruel, and she and the other children have barely enough to eat. But this is the only thing she’s ever known, sweeping. And she is desperate to find a man, one who cared for her until she was six years old, until she found herself alone.

The Sweep made her see magic in everything, keeping the two of them lighthearted. Indeed, they kept each other alive for half a dozen years until he vanished.

One day, Nan nearly dies in a chimney fire but awakes unharmed in a room with her char — a tiny piece of the Sweep’s love — miraculously alive. Together, Nan and her monster find a home together and realize the truth about love.

Rating: 5/5 stars. This book made me smile, it made me (almost) cry, and I loved Nan’s character, how brave and kind she was.

Ages: 9-14. There is some violence and related elements.

The Girl Who Could Unite Them All, Part Eight

“So,” grinned Max. “It’s sort of a thing to change your name once you join.” He looked as if he were keeping a huge secret.

“What are all of your real names?” Vali wondered.

“J’s is Julina, Storm’s is”—Storm shot Max a look—“classified, and mine is . . .” Max’s face reddened.

“I didn’t even know you had a fake name!” Vali laughed.

“His name is Weasel,” J said, smirking at her brother. Max looked miserable. “Ha! Our names are Julina and Weasel.”

“Shut up, J,” Max grumbled. “It’s a family name. My great uncle was called Weasel.”

Vali attempted to stifle a laugh but failed.

“What would you like your new name to be?” asked Storm.

“I think I’d like . . . ,” Vali thought for a moment. “Ember.”

Oh, great. She was now juggling two fake names and a weird story about how she was a flame that had dyed her hair purple. Of all things, Vali hated to lie.

“Well, Max,” Storm said. “Take Ember to her new room upstairs.”

Max and Vali got on the elevator. “Well, there are only three rooms, so you’ll have to share with someone, or someone could move,” Max explained.

“Who has the biggest room?” asked Vali.

“J, obviously. She needs the extra space for her ego.”

“Well, how about I move into her room?” Vali asked defiantly.

Max’s face turned confused for a second. “Uh, okay,” he said. “Whatever floats your boat.”

The Girl Who Could Unite Them All, Part Seven

“So what did you do to get kicked out of Lorian?” Vali wondered aloud.

“That is private information,” Storm thudded.

This was Vali’s chance. She grabbed a piece of bread and chewed. It was even better then she had imagined. It melted in her mouth, and the garlic flavor was the best she had ever had.

“So, as we had asked before, how long will you be staying with us?” Storm asked.

“I think for as long as I don’t get found,” Vali said.

“Aha! Found!” Storm exclaimed, newly energized by the discovery. “So you are a runaway!”

“Well, sort of,” Vali mumbled, cursing herself for slipping. “It wasn’t really my choice.”

“When did you run away?” Storm interrogated.

“Today.” It didn’t hurt to tell more of the truth, since she already had told some of it.

“Today! You live in Lorian! How did you get here so quickly?”

“I have my ways,” said Vali, going back to being mysterious.

“I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing here, but I think you may join us.”

“Join you?” Vali blinked.

“It means you may stay in this house with us, live with us, and come with us if we ever leave.” Storm paused. “It means you are part of our team.”

Suddenly the elevator came back down from the level above. J and Max stepped out. “We could use a powerful flame,” Storm whispered.

“A powerful—what?” J exclaimed, a keen hearer. “Oh, you’re not thinking about letting her join our team, are you, Storm?”

“I’m not just thinking about it,” Storm smirked. “I already let her join.”

J shrieked in anger. Vali winced. J looked super close to hurting someone, at the least.

“So what do you say?” Max asked. “Will you join, Harriet?”

“Um . . . ,” Vali groaned. This was a lot to take in. “Sure. Why not!”

“Yes!” Max exclaimed, pumping his fist up and down. J was as red as a sunburnt tomato.

“I’m going to go take a bath,” J moaned, defeated. She stepped into the elevator and it ascended to the second level.

The Girl Who Could Unite Them All, Part Six

“All right, all right, Harriet!” exclaimed Storm, flashing a wide, fake smile. “Come on down to the kitchen! We’ve made some fresh garlic-and-herb bread!”

Vali followed the three of them down a hallway, and then to an elevator that arrived at the floor below in three seconds.

Sure enough, at a long, wooden kitchen table, there was a plate of cheesy, green-flecked bread that made Vali’s stomach growl.

They all sat at the table, in the center, with Vali and Max at one end and Storm and J at the other.

“So how long will you be staying with us?” J asked, flipping her hair and digging into a piece of bread.

“I . . . don’t know,” Vali hesitated. “But I would like to know why you are hiding. You seem as if you are on the run.”

“So do you,” Max laughed, and he giggled until Storm gave him a warning look.

“Well, I’ll explain it to you,” Storm said. “Well, Max and J were caught doing something illegal to Lazen law, and I was caught doing something illegal by Lorian law. And then we found each other, and then we hid in this house, and we were never found. That is the shortened version.”

“Uh, what’s Lazen?” Vali asked, though she suspected it was the name of the Other Place.

“Oh, child. So full of questions,” Storm muttered.

“Here. It’s the name of this country,” Max explained.

“And what did you do that was against the law?” asked Vali.

“It is your choice to tell her,” Storm said.

“Well, we, uh—” Max started.

“Shush!” J exclaimed through clenched teeth. “We are not telling her!”

“Yes we are,” Max said, nostrils flared.

“Oh my,” Storm sighed.

“We made robots!” Max quickly yelled. “Illegal robots.”

“How were they illegal?”

No more,” J scowled.

“They were equipped,” Max paused mysteriously, “with guns. Lazer guns!”

“That’s it!” J exclaimed. “You’re in for it!”

J got up from the table, and darted after Max, who was just getting in the elevator. The elevator shot up, and on the floor above them Vali heard shouting and yelling.

“I always try to control them, but it fails,” Storm said, putting her head in her hands.

Review of “The Book of Wonders,” by Jasmine Richards

Scheherazade, or Zardi, as she prefers to be called, lives in the riverside city Taraket with Nonna (her grandmother), Baba (her father), Zubeyda (her sister), and Rhidan (a boy of mysterious origins who has lived with her family ever since he was an infant).

Things are right for Zardi and her family, except for one major thing: the sultan. Shahryar rose to power fifteen years ago, and ever since, the kingdom of Arrabitha has been cowering under his shadow. He kills anyone who does magic, and he kills young women every season just for sport.

Everything changes on the day Captain Sinbad appears at the docks, telling tales of his adventures. Zardi, curious, along with Rhidan, listen among the crowd. Rhidan, desperate to find out where he comes from, asks Captain Sinbad if he’s seen anyone like him before. The captain starts to say something, but not before he and his crew take off, fleeing the sultan’s guard.

Rhidan and Zardi, desperate to find the captain, try to chase him down, but it’s too late. Captain Sinbad’s ship, the Falcon, sails away without them.

Rhidan and Zardi make it home, but a drastic turn of events leaves Baba and Zubeyda imprisoned and due to be killed at the end of the season. Zardi and Rhidan, determined and heartbroken, set out to find Captain Sinbad and save Baba and Zubeyda.

I really liked the exotic tone of this book, and I liked the fast pace in the first half of the book. However, the book really slowed down in the second half and I found myself getting bored. It was a good book overall, but the ending I didn’t find pleasing, and there isn’t a sequel.

Rating: 4/5 stars. The majority of the book I liked, and the issues I listed aren’t really as major as they seem. I’d reccomend it to any teen who’s looking for something fast-paced and exciting to read.

Ages: 10-14 (There’s lot’s of violence, blood, etcetera.)

The Girl Who Could Unite Them All, Part Five

Vali awoke some time later, her heart pounding. She was bound to a chair in a dark room, her hands and legs uncomfortably tied. She attempted to yell “Let me go!” but with tape across her mouth, it came out muffled.

She jolted to try to get out of the chair, but at that moment, a light flicked on. It was a small book light, and it was shining right in her eyes.

“Who are you and what are you doing here?” asked a female voice.

The tape was ripped from her mouth and she shrieked from the pain.

“Why should I tell you anything?” she yelled.

Suddenly there was warmth on her leg. They were about to burn her!

Vali screamed. At that moment, she remembered her powers. She burnt all the ropes off of her body and jumped out of her chair, flinging her fists and flames at the unidentified person.

Or rather, people. She could see two silhouettes in the dark. One taller person, an adult, and one shorter, a person probably around her age.

Stop!” someone shouted. A door that Vali hadn’t known was part of the room opened, and a thirteen-year old girl with dirty blonde hair and glittering black eyes was standing there. “Everybody calm down.”

“You naïve child,” said the female voice Vali had heard from earlier. “She was going insane! We were merely trying to stop her.”

Vali swiveled around. The speaker was a middle-aged woman with wavy turquoise hair, gray streaked, and electric blue eyes. An aquatic.

“Hello,” the woman said, regaining her composure. “I am Storm, and this is Max.”

Vali looked at Max. He looked very similar to the girl in the doorway, except his face was peppered with freckles and he was a little bit shorter. He was holding up a lighter, sheepishly smiling.

Storm looked pointedly at the girl, and the girl pursed her lips. “I’m J.”

“Who are you?” Max asked. He had a raspy, strong voice.

“I’m not saying anything until you tell me why you did that to me.”

J rolled her eyes. “Well, we were taking precautions. We had a plan that if anyone ever found us, we would knock them unconscious and then question them. Which is exactly what we did.”

“But burning me?” Vali asked incredulously.

“Max was trying a new tactic,” Storm said after a short pause.

J walked inside of the room and flicked the light on. Vali was surprised to see that the room was an office, which looked like a hurricane had come through.“So,” Max said.

“You can trust us, I promise. What’s your name?”

Vali decided to come up with a fake name in the spur of the moment. “Harriet,” she lied.

“And a flame, I see,” Storm muttered. “But with purple hair!”

“It’s”—Vali stumbled over her words—“it’s a disguise thing.”

J narrowed her eyes for a moment, looking up from the papers she was rearranging and throwing on the desk, but she quickly looked back down.

Sunrise

Sun rising over grass with dew
Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

(This is four haikus in one poem.)

the wet sparkling dew

it is cold and clear and crisp

on the bright green grass

the sun starts to rise

up above the golden trees

a chilly breeze blows

the sky is silver

and mist floats above the ground

the world is so calm

so early in the morning

we venture into the woods

so early in the morning