Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
Nan Sparrow was a "climber" for a heinous chimney sweep named Wilkie Crudd. She had no choice since her mentor and protector "The Sweep" had mysteriously disappeared. All he left her was a chunk of char she kept with her always. When Nan got stuck in a chimney the truth about what the Sweep left her became known.
This is a beautiful story about friendship, loyalty and the hardships of the poor during Victorian London. I knew nothing about the climbers the chimney sweeps used to brush out the soot. I didn't know even less about the horrific conditions under which they were forced to work. I knew about child labor in factories and such but not the young children forced into servitude as climbers. There are wonderful author notes at the back that suggest more reading about this time period and how child labor became a cause at about the time setting of this book. The author also notes, "When I began the journey of Nan's London, I thought I was learning about a different world. But I very quickly realized that I was looking into a mirror that reflected my own. Poverty, child labor and anti-Semitism continue to this day, no matter how much we would prefer to ignore them. It is only in looking back that we have any hope of moving forward." This alone is reason to read this book, the fact that it is an excellent story is icing on the cake.