Nan is an eleven-year-old chimney sweep living in Victorian England. She lives with four other chimney sweeps: Roger, Whittles, Shilling-Tom, and Newt. Their heartless master creates a rivalry between Nan and the oldest boy on the crew, Roger. The sweep who gathers less soot during the day must eat slops for dinner. This causes Roger to hate Nan as she is the faster worker.
Through flashbacks that are scattered throughout the novel, the reader learns that five years earlier, Nan lived with the Sweep. This kind man looked after Nan, taught her to clean chimneys and read, told her stories, and gave her his own food to help her survive. One day, the Sweep just leaves Nan on the roof of a Master Sweep, Wilkie Crudd, with his lucky hat and a special piece of char that is always warm. After the Sweep doesn’t return, Nan signs a contract with Crudd. Later Nan learns that the Sweep was dying and didn’t want Nan to see him go. The Sweep leaves the char thinking that Nan will light it to keep herself warm. This would cause the char to transform, but Nan doesn’t light the char, and the char doesn’t transform until five years later when Nan is burned in a chimney fire.
Activities for Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster
Book Unit Samples
Grab this free book unit sample from Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster. This handout includes vocabulary practice, a set of comprehension questions, and a constructed response writing prompt for chapters 1-3.
Teaching Idea #1 – Colby Sharp
I love Colby Sharp’s book reviews. He is the reason that I first read Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster. Here’s his video on the predictions for the 2019 Newbery and Caldecott winners. Notice that he is holding the book Sweep.
Teaching Idea #2 – Summarizing Activity
Students love watching animated shorts. While this animated short is not set in Victorian England as the novel Sweep is, students can get a feel for London while viewing this animated short.
This humorous short tells the story of how Queen Elizabeth’s hat blows away in the wind followed by all the antics her corgi and a guard go through to get it back. Students will laugh out loud as the hat becomes a place for a homeless person’s coins, an ashtray, and even winds up on the clock hands of Big Ben.
Students summarize the animated short using three different methods with the free printables provided.
A Real Treat
The Reading Crew is a group of primary through middle school reading specialists. About three to four times a year, we share materials and ideas through a blog link-up. Enjoy reading through our posts and collecting free materials to use in your classroom this spring.