Sweeping Up the Heart (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Madison, 1999. 12-year-old Amelia’s missed out on a great spring break. Instead of going to Florida, her best friend went to France without her. She spends her days at the ceramics studio while her widowed dad, a professor at the university, does research. But at the workshop is a new face, the owner’s nephew, and he’s dealing with his parents divorcing. As they mold their clay (she’s great, he not so much), they come up with a game where they name strangers, and one of them, whom they name Epiphany, seems to be following Amelia. Could this be her long-lost mother? Henkes’s latest is quiet and spare, but it’s also as delicate and expressive as one of Amelia’s ceramic rabbits, poetically capturing the joys, worries, and uncertainties of her life.

— Daniel Goldin

Kevin Henkes is a star picture book author and illustrator. With Sweeping Up the Heart, he proves again that he's also a talented writer for older kids. Twelve-year-old Amelia's fantasy spring break is ruined when her father won't take her to Florida. She has no memory of a mother who died when she was just two years old, and her father doesn't seem able to connect with her life. Things are looking dismal, but Amelia's love for making clay animal figures at a local studio changes everything and leads her to new friendship, a renewed family, and confusing, unfamiliar feelings. I think middle grade readers will truly enjoy Henkes' characters. The kids and the adults are creative, positive people. They make perceptive observations about life and still sound so natural. This book is a quick read with a mature wisdom, and it's very easy to love!

— Tim McCarthy

Spring 2019 Kids Indie Next List

“‘Poor Amelia Albright,’ Mrs. O’Brien says every day and has for the last 10 years, ever since Amelia’s mother died of cancer. Henkes’ Amelia is a 12-year-old artist whose new artist friend, Casey, is also dealing with grief as his parents go through a divorce. Together, the two young artists help each other journey through loneliness, loyalty, death, and family crises. After reading Sweeping Up the Heart, readers will fully understand why Henkes has received two Newbery Honors and they will want to read more of his timeless and classic stories.”
— Karen Briggs, The Booknook, East Talwas, MI


From two-time Newbery Honor and New York Times–bestselling author Kevin Henkes, this timeless novel about loss, loneliness, and friendship tells the story of the spring break that changes seventh-grader Amelia Albright’s life forever. This middle grade novel is an excellent choice for tween readers in grades 5 to 6, especially during homeschooling. It’s a fun way to keep your child entertained and engaged while not in the classroom.

Amelia Albright dreams about going to Florida for spring break like everyone else in her class, but her father—a cranky and stubborn English professor—has decided Florida is too much adventure.

Now Amelia is stuck at home with him and her babysitter, the beloved Mrs. O’Brien. The week ahead promises to be boring, until Amelia meets Casey at her neighborhood art studio. Amelia has never been friends with a boy before, and the experience is both fraught and thrilling. When Casey claims to see the spirit of Amelia’s mother (who died ten years before), the pair embarks on an altogether different journey in their attempt to find her.

Using crisp, lyrical, literary writing and moments of humor and truth, award-winning author Kevin Henkes deftly captures how it feels to be almost thirteen.

With themes of family, death, grief, creativity, and loyalty, Sweeping Up the Heart is for readers of Kate DiCamillo, Rebecca Stead, Lauren Wolk, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, and Pam Muñoz Ryan.

About the Author

Kevin Henkes is an award-winning author and illustrator of many books for children of all ages. He received the Caldecott Medal for Kitten’s First Full Moon; Caldecott Honors for Waiting and Owen; two Newbery Honors—one for Olive’s Ocean and one for The Year of Billy Miller—and Geisel Honors for Waiting and Penny and Her Marble. His other books include Egg, Old Bear, A Good Day, Chrysanthemum, and the beloved Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. Kevin Henkes lives with his family in Madison, Wisconsin. www.kevinhenkes.com

Praise For…

“Deeply felt. . .moving and satisfying, and the book ends with a feeling of revelation and rebirth. . .and an utterly perfect final sentence.”
New York Times Book Review

“A shimmering novel that touches on human frailty, the consolations of art, and the mysteries of growing up.”
Wall Street Journal

“Captured on the threshold of puberty’s tumultuous changes, Amelia and Casey quiver with hope and longing. Like a Chinese brush painting made of words, this short novel distills the slow-building impatience of early adolescence down to its essence—not much happens, yet everything does. . . . Spare, luminous, lovely.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Henkes’s profound understanding of the adolescent heart and mind is evident . . . In economic prose, Henkes evokes the complexity of his characters’ emotions and relationships, and offers a feel-good resolution.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“In that confusing space between childhood and adulthood, Amelia finds comfort in talking to her beloved stuffed lamb even as she experiences her first crush and wonders ‘what kind of woman she would be when she grew up.’ The week’s cheerlessness morphs into something complex and important.”
— Horn Book (starred review)

“A stunning realistic fiction novel, Amelia’s story is woven tightly with themes of friendship, grief, and love. In his signature classic style, Henkes perfectly captures the hope paramount to the youthful heart, while honoring difficult themes. . . [A] smooth, compact, emotionally nuanced novel with relatable characters.”
— School Library Journal (starred review)

“Amelia is a winning character: a dreamy, old soul who perfectly displays the naivety and the wisdom of growing up. Humor and lyrical language buoy the . . . narrative. Henkes’s latest story is, like most life changes, quiet yet momentous.”
— ALA Booklist

“Henkes writes in still pools with occasional ripples, a clarity of approach that gives his writing immediacy along with precision. . .Readers will sympathize with [Amelia] as she negotiates some complicated human dynamics and comes out with more understanding.”
— Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Henkes is the master of quiet yet potent observation, and this slender novel sensitively maps the heart of a girl on the cusp of ‘whatever was still to come.’”
Cleveland Plain Dealer

Product Details
ISBN: 9780062852540
ISBN-10: 006285254X
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: March 19th, 2019
Pages: 192
Language: English