Sweep by Jonathan Auxier is a poignant, extraordinary tale filled with friendship and wonder set in Victorian England. This Sweep Novel Study helps you dive deeper into the story!
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Sweep by Jonathan Auxier
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier is a beautifully written story set in the middle of Victorian England. It brings up topics of child labor and anti-Semitism as this historical fantasy weaves aspects of the brutality of life as a chimney sweep with the Jewish mythological creature golems. The story feels like Charles Dickens mixed with a fairy tale. I would highly recommend this story for ages 10+ or as a read aloud.
Sweep is a tale of friendship and grief. Eleven year-old Nan Sparrow works as a chimney climber, a thankless and deadly job. After being stuck in a chimney fire, Nan is saved by a mysterious creature. This creature turns out to be a golem, who she names Charlie. Nan and Charlie take refuge in an abandoned mansion and grow their lives together in this poignant story.
Sweep reminds us that life can be heart-breaking. It reminds us that life is not always pretty, but it’s better to confront these realities instead of pretending they don’t exist. It shows us that even in the midst of grief and sorrow, there are hope, wonders, and miracles worth living for. We just have to look for them.
Sweep has so many great discussion points!
Sweep tackles the subject of brutal and deadly child labor honestly without being gory. It begs us to ask why children were used for such a dangerous time, why people were okay with it, and how child labor exists today. (Another great resource about child labor is the musical Newsies.)
The creature Nan befriends is a golem. In Jewish mythology, a golem is a protector with a purpose. You can grab the Caldecott award winning story Golem to go along with it.
Victorian England was a unique time where the rich and the poor was greatly divided. The Industrial Revolution brought wealth to some and extreme poverty for others. Charles Dickens novels, such as Oliver Twist, explore some of the latter.
There are many brief mentions of anti-Semitism and elements of Jewish religion including Passover, Hanukkah, and Jewish persecution.
Grief and Loss
At the crux, Auxier says Sweep is a story of grief. It’s poignant and bittersweet, but shows how by helping others, we help ourselves.
This Sweep Study Guide packet has 34 pages plus an answer key.
- Chapter Reference Guide
- Discussion/Pre-Reading Questions (also works for writing prompts)
- Comprehension Quizzes/Final Quiz (8)
- Vocabulary Worksheets (6)
- Compare/Contrast chapters of the same title (4)
- Drawing/Imagery Activity (2)
- Story Soup Activity
- Traits graphic organizer (Nan, Charlie)
- Compare and Contrast Characters (2)
- Chimney Sweepers