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Sparrow Road

Sparrow Road

4.7 29
by Sheila O'Connor

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A perfect summer read set in a mysterious artists' estate in the idyllic Midwestern countryside

It's the summer before seventh grade, and twelve-year-old Raine O'Rourke's mother takes a sudden job at Sparrow Road—a dilapidated mansion that houses a group of eccentric artists. While Raine's mother works as the cook and housekeeper, Raine is left to figure


A perfect summer read set in a mysterious artists' estate in the idyllic Midwestern countryside

It's the summer before seventh grade, and twelve-year-old Raine O'Rourke's mother takes a sudden job at Sparrow Road—a dilapidated mansion that houses a group of eccentric artists. While Raine's mother works as the cook and housekeeper, Raine is left to figure out why she and her mother have really come to Sparrow Road. Secrets seem to be everywhere, but it's an unexpected secret from Raine's own life—the reason she's come to Sparrow Road—that changes her forever.

An affecting and beautifully written story of family and forgiveness, Sparrow Road is a perfect pick for the middle-grade set.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 5–7—Twelve-year-old Raine O'Rourke cannot understand why her single mother has abruptly decided to leave their Milwaukee home and her beloved Grandpa Mac to live and work for the summer at an old Lake Michigan estate. Sparrow Road, once an orphanage, is owned and run as an artist colony by stern, enigmatic Viktor Berglund, who imposes strict rules of conduct such as silence until dinner, and Raine is further restricted from leaving the premises, even as her mother and Viktor make mysterious trips to town. She tries to make the best of the situation, exploring the attic where vestiges of the orphanage give her fodder for her own writing, as she uses slim clues to create the persona of orphan Lyman Chase. With help from Diego, a wise and kindly artist, and flamboyant craftswoman Josie, Raine begins to adjust until the real reason for her mother's decision is revealed: the father she has never even heard of lives nearby and wants to meet and get to know her. What follows is a thoughtful coming-of-age story that explores old and new relationships and conflicting family loyalties as Raine learns important things about herself and is left to make a serious decision about her father. Adding interest to this novel, set in a time before computers and cell phones, is a touch of mystery surrounding the orphanage, and Josie's brainchild of an Art Extravaganza that brings townspeople and former orphans back to Sparrow Road. Lyrical writing in this first-person narrative, good character development, and a sympathetic heroine will keep readers absorbed.—Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
Children's Literature - Jody Little
Twelve-year-old Raine is not happy about moving to Sparrow Road for the summer, but her mother has been hired to cook and clean for the visiting artists. When they arrive, Raine discovers that Sparrow Road is filled with surprises and secrets. Even her mom seems to be keeping secrets. Raine wants to learn why they are really on Sparrow Road and why her mother keeps making trips into the nearby town, Comfort, without her. Gradually, Raine befriends several of the artists, including a kind, but frail poet named Lillian and an exuberant quilter named Josie. Together, Raine and Josie make some discoveries about Sparrow Road. First, they learn that the home was once an orphanage. They decide to locate some of the children who once lived in the home. Then Raine discovers that the real reason she has come to Sparrow Road is to meet her long missing father, and she begins to think about what it means to be without a parent, reflecting on the confused feelings she has always had about her father. Surrounded by a new, beloved family of artists at Sparrow Road, Raine must decide what she wants for her future. Does she want to return with her mother to Milwaukee, where her dear grandfather lives? Or does she want to stay at Sparrow Road near her father? This quiet, heartfelt middle grade novel has a lovely melodic tone. It is slow-paced, but it is filled with memorable characters and touches upon the importance of a family and the stability and warmth that a loving family can provide. Reviewer: Jody Little
Kirkus Reviews

The mystery of why her mother suddenly took a job at a summer artists' refuge far from home is solved when 12-year-old Raine meets Gray James, the father she never knew.

But that's only a piece of the puzzle of what was and what could be at Sparrow Road and in her life. The crumbling country estate, a former orphanage, is a place readers will want to explore. It is suffused with a sense of longing, the same wistful atmosphere surrounding the characters in this beautifully written novel, with its leisurely revelation of secrets and sad events of the past. Remarkably, O'Connor has peopled her story almost entirely with grown-ups: Raine's family; Viktor, the mysterious owner; and Lillian, Josie, Diego and Eleanor, artists working there for the summer. These are well-developed secondary characters, each with a distinct personality, but this is fully Raine's tale. The adults nurture her, but they also set her free to discover herself, her family and her own artistry. She and Josie, the quilt maker, piece together the history of the house while Raine imagines, dreams and reconstructs her former contentment, shattered by revelations about her father's alcoholism and her grandfather's anger. Set perhaps 30 years ago, the specific time and place are unimportant.

Readers finding themselves in this quiet world will find plenty of space to imagine and dream for themselves.(Fiction. 10-14)

From the Publisher
Praise for Sparrow Road:
International Reading Association Award 
Midwest Booksellers Choice Awards Finalist
A VOYA Best Book
A Booklist Best Book
A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book
A Bank Street Best Book
★ “Readers finding themselves in this quiet world will find plenty of space to imagine and dream for themselves.” - Kirkus Reviews, starred review
★ "[A] timeless piece of middle-grade fiction. . . . A special book." - Booklist, starred review

“[T]he strength of even imperfect human connections is celebrated through the relationships among a multitude of vivid and varied characters.” – BCCB
"Lyrical writing in this first-person narrative, good character development, and a sympathetic heroine will keep readers absorbed." - School Library Journal
"Sparrow Road is a book that strikes—and gentles—with Truth. Here is a world of Sorrow and Comfort, crafted by an artist who dares to suggest, without sentimentality but with a hard-nosed realism, that a broken world can be renewed through love and daring and community and art. What a sweet and hopeful and engaging story." - Gary D. Schmidt, Newbery Honor-winning author of Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and The Wednesday Wars
"Sparrow Road is a place for wishing long and dreaming, and so is this terrific novel.  Sparrow Road is quite wonderful and I recommend it highly." - Karen Cushman author of the Newbery Medal-winning, The Midwife’s Apprentice, and the Newbery Honor-winning Catherine, Called Birdy
"Sparrow Road has everything I could ask for in a novel – mysteries, secrets, a creepy mansion with a haunting past, a cast of unforgettable characters, and a twisting tale of self-discovery." - Ann Martin, Newbery Honor-winning author of A Corner of the Universe

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
530L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 Years

Meet the Author

Sheila O'Connor lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sparrow Road is her debut work for children.

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Sparrow Road 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book i am in sixth grade and think it would be good for grades 5th-11th this is a must read and would be great for a mother and daughter read toghter!
OtotheD More than 1 year ago
Twelve-year-old Raine is not happy. Her mother just took a summer job at an artist's sanctuary called Sparrow Road and she's forcing Raine to go with her. Raine would rather stay in Milwaukee with her Grandpa Mac, working in his store and eating all the candy she can get her hands on. It's always been that way, and she doesn't understand why it has to change now. To make matters worse, Sparrow Road has all sorts of rules, the worst being that you are not allowed to talk except for after dinner and on Sundays. As soon as Rainne arrives, she is devising an escape plan. Surely her mother won't make her stay here all summer. Maybe she can convince Grandpa Mac to come get her. As Rainne settles in at Sparrow Road, she gets to know some of the quirky artists and writers that reside there, and she begins tapping into some of her own unknown talents. She also learns that Sparrow Road used to be an orphanage and there are many secrets waiting to be discovered. As the days pass, and Rainne settles in with the artists, a number of things begin taking place that Rainne doesn't understand. Why does she get the feeling that her mother knows Viktor, the caretaker, better than she lets on? Why is Rainne not allowed to go into town with her mother when she runs errands? Why do the residents of Sparrow Road still talk about the orphans that used to live there as if they still exist? As the summer progresses, Rainne will uncover the answers to these questions, and some of them will change her life forever. I fell in love with this book from the very first page. The prose is fluid and very descriptive. Every scene is painted so vividly I felt as if I was there. The characters are all very well drawn and realistic and the story itself is filled with the right amount of humor, mischief, mystery and hope to keep the reader wanting more. The story is told from Rainne's point-of-view, but the rest of the characters are just as colorful and very important in moving the story forward. Though the novel is geared toward middle-grade readers, adults and young adults alike will find much to love in Ms. O'Connor's story of family, self-discovery and forgiveness. This is the perfect book to take to the beach, or to curl up with under a tree this summer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a great intriging story that will take you through the life of one little girl?
harstan More than 1 year ago
Without an explanation, her mom Molly takes Raine with her as they move for the summer from Milwaukee to an artist retreat Sparrow Road overlooking Lake Michigan. Raine is upset that they are leaving beloved family especially Grandpa Mac behind while unsure why her mom apparently quit her job to take a position as cook and housekeeper. She wonders about the relationship between her mother and the Sparrow Road caretaker Viktor, who greets her with strict RULES about no noise before 5:00 PM and leave the artists alone among others; and why her mother (and seemingly the other adults) never allows her to be alone. Diego the artist encourages her to write down her questions, which he says will help her figure out the answers. However, like all youngsters she begins to meet the other eccentric residents on Sparrow Road. Josie tells her about the orphanage that was once here. Other artists encourage her to open herself up to beauty, which she does somewhat, but still ponders about her mom and the "Iceberg" owner. This is a charming relationship drama as mother and daughter love each other, but are frustrated with one another as well. Upper elementary school children will relish walking Sparrow Road with Raine as their guide; as she has so many questions in which answers lead to more questions. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was an enjoyable quick read. Enjoyed it alot
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVED this book!!!! It was a great story!! I just didn't like the ending though i wish Raine would have made the opposite decison, but i still loved this book and recommend it to everyone!!!!! : )
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story was a feel good happy story. And you never want to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found the book in paper form but didnt know their was a noik form thought that was amazing has a great way of grasping your reader but electronicaly :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sparrow Road is awesome. There is a lot of mystery and a lot of questions. Why is Raine at Sparrow Road? Who is Victor and what type of relationship does he have with Raine’s mom? Why is everyone not allowed in the attic? And how can she have fun this summer when she has not TV and isn’t allowed to talk? This book has a little bit of everything. The reader follows Raine as she goes on one of the biggest journeys of her life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a great book, even though its a little confusing. It made me smile, even through the sad parts. I totally recommend this book for every dreamer out there!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book love it !!!!!!!! :) :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is fuuny and crazy it mad me laugh a lot Aprilgrace has a weird family you need to read it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its hard to belive that everyone fell in love with book when for me it was the kind of book that just wouldnt get better i keeped reading and reading but nothing happened that pulled me in. Im in 6th grade which seems to be the age alot of people reading this book are and me and my friend both said that this book just wasnt interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book! I loved it! You should defanatly read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. The best book in the world
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was so good. I love how they keep you guessing all the way through. About a girl and her mother who move away from their grandfather. They move to an artists resort and the mother is the cook their. They learn how to love it their by having parties and going into town.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is very good book to read even though there are some sad parts and some hard times for Raine and her dad and mom but especially Raine and her dad since her mom never let Raine see her dad the only time she seen him and lived with his when she was a baby and she finally found him and now she knew why her mom didn't won't her to see her dad until now and until she was ready to see him again in her life !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVED this book!!!! I got to meet Sheila and she is also brilliant. Hope you enjoy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great young reader story about family relationships and forgiveness.