When the Brody’s neighbors, the Smirches, accuse Mr. Brody of thieven’ from them, Mr. Brody is hauled away to a jail cell nearly 30 miles away. To make matters worse, young Louisa Brody is forced to live with the accusers – rotten though they may be – on the Colorado prairie while her Pa awaits his trial. Louisa is convinced things aren’t what they seem; especially the “gnome” the Smirch’s niece Jessamine claims to have seen in the hazel grove. Can Louisa discover the magic of her father’s innocence in time to save him? Or will it be too late?
Who knew that life on the Colorado prairie could be this fun? This exciting? This enchanting? Melissa Wiley, of course. What’s more, she tells the story with flare. In fact, The Prairie Thief is another one of those books that makes one want to stand up and wave their arms and point and holler and say, “See! LOOK! A great ‘tween’ story. Rich vocabulary that doesn’t talk down to the reader! And moral – a moral tale! And its not too sweet, either!”
I can’t say enough about Wiley’s refreshing use of vocabulary. Here, listen to Judge Callahan reflect on his use of the word “character” during the Brody trial (68): “The judge noticed several members of the jury furrowing their brows. One of the perils of a classical education, he often reflected, was a predilection for vocabulary of an obfuscating nature.” So we have advanced – and beautiful – vocabulary sneaked into short, manageable chapters. Add to that engaging characters, just the right amount of sugar, and you have a fantastic read.
What’s more, The Prairie Thief deals with conflict in a direct, age appropriate way. As the young Jessamine stumbles upon a chance to help her father, she is confronted with a moral decision on whether or not the means justify the ends. And, too, just how far do the rules bend before they are considered broken? Here we see a young girl’s thought process as she works her way to the truth.
And the truth, in this case, is that The Prairie Thief is a must read (I know, I’m gushing). Pick it up, it won’t disappoint.
- Author: Melissa Wiley
- Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (August 28, 2012)
- Reading Age: Grades
What You Need to Know
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- Role Models/Authority Figures – Adults act like adults, children act like children. Mrs. Smirch isn’t a great role model, but hey someone has to be the bad guy.
- Violence – Mrs. Smirch likes to hit people over the head with her tin ladle.
- Sexual Content – None.
- Language – No foul language. A plethora of rich vocabulary.
- Consumerism – None. I mean, maybe your child will ask you for a pet pronghorn for Christmas. Or a brownie.
- Religion – None, unless you count the fact that it is a very nice moral tale.