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An Episode of Sparrows

An Episode of Sparrows

4.3 3
by Rumer Godden

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An emergency meeting of the Mortimer Square Garden Committee has been convened to discuss a most alarming matter: Someone has been digging in the garden and making off with buckets of dirt. Miss Angela Chesney is sure that a gang of boys from run-down Catford Street is to blame. But Angela’s sister, Olivia, isn’t so sure. Olivia has always wondered


An emergency meeting of the Mortimer Square Garden Committee has been convened to discuss a most alarming matter: Someone has been digging in the garden and making off with buckets of dirt. Miss Angela Chesney is sure that a gang of boys from run-down Catford Street is to blame. But Angela’s sister, Olivia, isn’t so sure. Olivia has always wondered why the neighborhood children—the “sparrows” she sometimes watches from the window of her house—are kept out of the private garden. Don’t they have a right to enjoy the place, too? But neither Angela nor Olivia has any idea what sent the neighborhood waif Lovejoy Mason and her few friends in search of good, rich earth. Still less do they imagine where their investigation of the incident will lead them—to a struggling restaurant, a bombed-out church, and at the heart of it all, a hidden garden.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Exploring a similar theme, Rumer Godden's An Episode of Sparrows (1955), set in WWII London, tells of two street kids who attempt to create a secret garden, inspiring other children and shaking up the neighborhood. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
“It would be impossible for a reader not to feel better from reading the story...her rich understanding of human nature, her humor and her beautiful prose inevitably leave one aglow.” —Chicago Tribune 

“A gentle, poignant story, poetically conceived with a fairy godmother ending. Recommended for all...” —Library Journal 

“I’m amazed now at the depth and detail of this short novel. It’s a masterpiece of construction and utterly, realistically convincing—though it has a fairytale element too. Rumer Godden’s books are admired for many qualities...but I think her greatest strength is her accurate, unsentimental portrayal of children.... An Episode of Sparrows was the first book that made me cry when I was ten. I cried all over again at this recent reading of the story—and I closed the book with the same sense of total satisfaction.” —Jacqueline Wilson, former Children’s Laureate, United Kingdom
“[An] extraordinarily gifted writer who manages to infuse her novels with a special magic of their own.”—Boston Herald
“May well prove the book of the year for those who are not ashamed to weep over the printed page...author Godden here tries her deft writing hand at landscaping a child’s heart.”—Time
“It is a sentimental tale, well told, with an unlikely and entirely satisfactory ending.”—The New Yorker
“It has a dizzying cast of characters, radiating out from the inhabitants of a once-genteel London residential square to the residents of the teeming commercial streets beyond.”—The Horn Book Magazine

“Rumer Godden’s work needs no praise. Her place in the literary world is high and secure. But perhaps one may say that in none of her books are her profound understanding and light touch more skillfully combined than in this poignant, tender, and subtly strong Episode of Sparrows.”—Christian Science Monitor

Children's Literature - Cathi I. White
Who is stealing the dirt from the Gardens in Mortimer Square, a rich, prominent area in London? What are they doing with the dirt? Prim and proper residents, Angela and her sister, Olivia, are among those trying to find out what is happening. There is suspicion that the street children from the poor area of Catford Street are the culprits. Angela tries to find proof, but Olivia is not so sure about the children being guilty. This interesting story entangles several plots with different characters to keep the reader intrigued. Lovejoy is an eleven-year-old neighborhood rogue who is street smart, but also tries to cover her tracks when she gets into trouble. Her heartless mother has left her in the care of a couple, Vincent and Mrs. Combie, who are trying to get a rundown restaurant on its feet. Tip is a boy who leads a gang and seems to be tough, but proves that he has a soft side. Compassionate Father Lambert keenly sees things others do not. And there is a secret garden that brings people together, but then tears them apart. Readers will find out what these characters have to do with each other and how their own stories are entwined. Compassion, anger, mystery, deceit, love, and pity are all expressed in the pages of this absorbing book. Readers will want to find out how these characters are mingled together as the mystery unfolds and is revealed. This appealing book was inspired from the author’s time in London after World War II. Teachers may want to use this interesting book as a good literature piece to share with children in a classroom. Reviewer: Cathi I. White; Ages 10 to 14.
Children's Literature - Della A. Yannuzzi
Lovejoy, an eleven-year-old English girl growing up in London in the 1940s does not have an easy life. She is considered a street child who wanders about the city, although her mother, a traveling actress/singer has left her with a married couple who are struggling to get by with their little restaurant. Lovejoy's mother is behind on her upkeep for Lovejoy. She can't pay for her boarding, new clothes or even buy a decent pair of shoes for her. Lovejoy dreams of having something for herself, and when she finds a packet of flower seeds on the street, she decides to start a garden in the ruins of buildings that have been destroyed by World War II. She befriends a boy named Tip and he helps her build the garden until he gets caught stealing dirt from a city garden. A woman named Angela from the Garden Committee wants the dirt thieves caught, but her sister Olivia wonders, can dirt really be stolen? Lovejoy is a determined little girl and continues on with her garden until her garden is destroyed to make room for a new church. To make matters worse, Lovejoy's, mother doesn't return, the restaurant goes out of business, and the little girl has nowhere to go but to an orphanage. All is not lost though when Angela's sister, Olivia, who has been watching the street life from her old school house window tries to help Tip and Lovejoy. When she dies, she establishes a trust fund for Lovejoy with stipulations. The restaurant owners should open a new restaurant, Lovejoy live with them, and be provided clothes, an education, and money from the profits of the restaurant to be divided between the owners, Lovejoy, and Tip. The plot has many twists and turns, and unobtrusive moral lessons, but the author well known for her many books for children and young adults has written an engrossing tale of life in London after the destruction of World War II. Reviewer: Della A. Yannuzzi

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
20.00(w) x 20.00(h) x 20.00(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Rumer Godden (1907–1998) grew up in India, where her father ran a steamship company. When her husband left her penniless in Calcutta with two daughters to raise, she turned to writing to pay off her many debts. She wrote over sixty books for adults and young adults, including The Doll’s House, Impunity Jane, and The Greengage Summer.

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Episode of Sparrows 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anglophiles, Rumer Godden fans, readers of good fiction will not be disappointed in this finely-crafted story. This new edition seems to be marketed towards younger readers, but for all that there are children in it, and playing major parts, it is a story for all who want to understand the big picture, if you will. Miss Godden's incredible talent for drawing together many different threads to weave her tale is irresistable, in An Episode of Sparrows and all of her fiction, in fact.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago