Will Sparrow's Road, by Karen Cushman, will give young readers a look at what life was like for a poor, young boy in Elizabethan England. Will's father is a drunk who sold him to an innkeeper in exchange for liquor. When Will steals a pie the innkeeper threatens to sell him to a man who will make him a chimney sweep. Will knows that this is a death sentence. So he runs away with no shoes and a blanket that smells of a horse as his only possession.
Will meets a number of people along the road as he flees, including a thief who steals his blanket and the bag of apples he has harvested. Finally Will falls in with a man named Tidball who travels from fair to fair with his crew of oddities and prodigies. At first he is grateful to Master Tidball and afraid of the cat-faced girl and the surly dwarf who are also part of the crew.
It takes a while for Will to learn to see the cat-faced girl who has named herself Grace Wise and the dwarf whose name is Fitz as people just like him. It takes him even longer to see that Master Tidball is not the benevolent man he first thought he was.
This story follows Will as he finds a home and family of his choosing. We also get to see Will learn to care about others. The life of a young boy on his own in Elizabethan England is hard with lots of hunger and rough treatment. We see a lot of people who are not kind but we also see quite a few people who are kind to Will, too.