Sparrow Being Sparrow by Gail Donovan

Sparrow Being Sparrow introduces a likeable heroine with some impulsive ways that are open to correction.

Sparrow Being Sparrow by Gail Donovan, illustrated by Elysia Case. Atheneum, 2023, 178 pages.

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-10

Recommended for: ages 5-8 as a read-aloud, 7-11 for independent readers

Sparrow gets carried away easily—often too easily, as her parents have pointed out many times. Of course she didn’t mean to bump into her elderly neighbor so hard the lady fell down and broke her hip. But Mrs. LaRose may have got a little carried away as well, while the two were doing their butterfly dance. Anyway, the lady’s chief concern as the ambulance arrived was “My cats.” “Don’t worry,” Sparrow assured her. “I’ll take care of them.” Not a minor promise, as Mrs. LaRose has seven cats.

Sparrow is prone to impulsive promises and acts, but she delivers on her pledge to feed and cuddle the felines as their individual personalities demand. The problem comes when, on the first day of her new school, she introduces herself with a fun fact: “I have seven cats.” The other fourth-graders ooh and aah, but how can she back up this obvious lie? And when Mrs. LaRose comes home from the hospital with a walker, how can Sparrow convince the lady’s daughter to keep all seven? And not move into a retirement village?

Sparrow is an appealing character in spite of her flaws, and her moral quandaries are appropriate and relatable to this age. She finds the church service boring when a neighbor invites her family to go, but she likes the children’s choir director and Sunday school teacher. It’s a mainstream church, I suspect, whose liturgical calendar includes a Sunday for blessing the animals. But there’s room for grace—literally, when Sparrow finally receives a cat of her own. Hers is a sweet, simple story ideal for a cozy read-aloud.

Overall Rating: 4.25

Worldview/moral value: 4

Artistic/literary value: 4.5

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Also at Redeemed Reader

Review: Can’t get enough of cats? Haven: A Small Cat’s Big Adventure is a touching read-aloud for young middle-graders.

Resource: If you’re looking for good chapter books for newly-independent readers, click here and here and here.

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