Synopsis from Goodreads
Thrown out of the Knip and Pynch Children’s Home, Sparrow is an orphan accompanied only by her loyal cat Scaramouch and a single clue to her real family. Sparrow travels to the town of Stollenbach where, lost and afraid she is taken in by Gloriana, a strange and colourful street girl. Sparrow thinks she has found a home in the ‘nest’ – a hideout for homeless girls run by the beautiful but menacing Miss Minter. Sparrow is taught to make matches and stay quiet but all is not as it seems. And what does the vicious Tapper want with Sparrow?
As Sparrow uncovers a web of strange and suspicious secrets she finds herself at the heart of an undercover smuggling trade with a price on her head. Kidnapped, beaten and locked in the coal cellar Sparrow’s dream of finding a family seems impossible.
A wonderful re-imagining of OLIVER TWIST, Sparrow’s adventure realises the dark secrets of Dickensian London with a fantastical twist for younger readers.
REVIEW BY OLIVER – YEAR 8
Brightling begins by introducing us to Sparrow, an orphaned girl, living in the’ Knip and Pynch home for Waifs and Strays’. The story describes her journey to Stlollenback and the difficulties she experiences along the way.
Set in Britain during an era when the streets were cobbled, people lived in extremely poor conditions and struggled to make ends meet, and scavenging for food was not uncommon.
Sparrow (named after her mother’s love for birds) is joined on her travels by her loyal and trusted cat, Scaramouch. On her journey she is threatened and hunted for her money and her inheritance, by Tapper Nash, Miss Minter and Miss Knip (the founders of the Knip and Pynch home).
My favourite part was when Sparrow was selling matches with the match stick girls and had to escape from the crowd, because someone found out that they were selling Brightling. I liked this part of the story because it was enthralling imagining the young criminal girls running for their freedom.
My least favourite part of the book was when Sparrow was tricked into doing something she shouldn’t, the atmosphere was tense with anticipation because it seemed unlikely that she would be able to escape.
My favourite character in the book was Scaramouch because he showed bravery and courage to remain by his owner’s side when she needed him most.
The character I liked the least was Miss Minter because she was cunning and untrustworthy from the beginning. When Sparrow had nowhere to go and she went to the nest (girl orphans go there to hide or for shelter) to gain shelter and food, Miss Minter knew she could make money out of her from her inheritance, as she knew who Sparrows family were.
I would recommend this book to people who like mystery and adventure books because the story is all about finding people and objects.
This book would be great for an adventure reader because the book is one long journey (some might say an adventure) about Sparrow’s attempts to find her mother and father. The reader experiences with her the problems she encounters as she embarks upon this difficult journey. A fresh twist on the themes of the original Oliver Twist making it more accessible to younger readers.
REVIEW BY SOPHIE – YEAR 9
Thrown out of the Knip and Pynch Children’s Home, Sparrow is an orphan accompanied only by her loyal cat Scaramouch and a single clue to her real family. Sparrow travels to the town of Stollenbach where, lost and afraid she is taken in by Gloriana, a strange and colourful street girl. Sparrow thinks she has found a home in the ‘nest’ – a hideout for homeless girls run by the peculiar and some what menacing Miss Minter. Sparrow is taught to make matches and stay quiet but all is not as it seems. And what does the vicious Tapper want with Sparrow? As Sparrow uncovers a web of strange and mysterious secrets she finds herself at the heart of an undercover smuggling trade with a price on her head. Kidnapped, beaten and locked in the coal cellar Sparrow’s dream of finding a family seems out of reach.
Throughout the duration of this book you begin to see each character link with one another and how the main character Sparrow fits in the middle of everything. Sparrow sets off a dangerous journey to find her family but the path to a family is littered with dangers and suspicious characters. She encounters Krackodyles and makes it out alive by a hair. After being locked in Betty Nash and Tapper’s house Sparrow struggles to reach Stollenbach however when she does even more troubles await her. She meets Gloriana (a quirky and upbeat girl) who offers Sparrow a place at the ‘nest’. Sparrow must work with the match girls all while trying to uncover her family’s identity but the innocent hide away of the ‘nest’ are selling more than just matches. My favorite part of the book was the circus as it was well described and I could really imagine it and it also hosted some exciting action too!
I believe the character developed in this book was good for Sparrow as it showed her close relationship to Scaramouch which allowed the reader to see the vulnerability of Sparrow however I felt the author could have developed Miss Minter and Gloriana’s relationship and characters further as they seemed intriguing. My favorite character was Glorianna as I felt she was a brave and witty girl but I felt she was longing for a family and someone to call home, this meant I was rooting for her to feel happiness throughout the book. I also liked the character Miss Minter for different reasons. I liked the mystery she had when she was first introduced however her past wasn’t fully explained which in a way left the reader decided for him/herself what happened to Miss Minter to make her like the way she is.
Regarding the ending I would have like to see it conclude differently. The ending although it was a twist it was slightly anti climatic and predictable. I was enticed by a certain event however when the end of the book approached it changed into a typical children’s book ending. Another difference I would have liked in the book would have been the relationship between Glorianna and Miss Minter develop as they seem to have a complicated one. Glorianna seemed loyal to Miss Minter and it seemed she was a mother figure to her but she also disliked her actions and approaches some situations I would have liked to see an insight into the history behind these two characters. Overall I thought the book adding some interesting plot twisting but if it would have done these two points I believe it would have been a shocking and heart breaking tale.
I enjoyed this book a lot has it was a modern and mythical take the Charles Dickens classic ‘Oliver’. The book shared similar themes and relationships but ‘Brightling’ was a magical and an easier read then ‘Oliver’. I would recommend this book as it was unique and would be rateable to animal lovers as Sparrow and Scaramouch have a very special and heat warming bond. The book has some funny but also some dark elements hence why the age recommendation should be 9-12. I am thirteen and although I greatly enjoyed ‘Brightling’ I felt it was aimed at a younger audience and I would probably go for more challenging readsI would give the book 4/5 because it was a magically story that combined bravery, friendship, determination and interesting plot twists along the way. The author described scenes and the relationship well between Sparrow and Scaramouch well however I think I would try more difficult books with more complex topics or plots.