Monday, January 21, 2013

Review #121: The Prairie Thief

Dad:  We just finished a big family reading of "The Prairie Thief" by Melissa Wiley.
Gracie (age 12):  I've got such a good blurb for this book. 
Dad:  Oh yeah?
Gracie:  It's better than any blurb Isaac will think of.  I'm going to whoop Isaac at the blurbage.  
Dad:  Okay, tell us your blurb.
Gracie:  I don't want to right now!
Dad:  You want to save it for the end?
Gracie:  Yes, because it still needs a little tweaking here and there.
Dad:  Alright... we're on pins and needles.  So let's talk about "The Prairie Thief."  Let's start with each of the words in the title.
Isaac (age 14):  I'll tell you about the word "The."
Dad:  How about "Prairie"?
Lily (age 9):  The characters live on a prairie.  A prairie is a nice field of long flow-y grass that blows in the wind.
Isaac:  This book takes place in the same timeframe as Little House on the Prairie days.
Gracie:  Yeah, when I think of prairies, I think of Laura.
Lily:  Little girls with braids in their hair, running through the fields.  It's the Old Days.
Elijah (age 7):  They're probably all dead by now.
Dad:  Tell me about the "Thief" part of the title...
Lily:  The girl's dad was accused of theft-ing.
Gracie:  You're not even saying it right.  It's "thievering."
Dad:  Uh, thievering?
Gracie:  Louisa is the main character.  A whole bunch of stolen property is found on their land, and her father is falsely accused.  He has to go to jail, and Louisa has to clear her father's name before they hang him, because her Pa is like an awesome honorable man.
Lily:  Louisa has to go stay with the people who accused her Pa because they are the only ones who live nearby.
Gracie:  It's miserable!  They are called The Smirches.  Which sounds like a totally evil name.
Lily: (growling)  Smmmirchhhhhh....
Gracie:  Doesn't that name just sound like an evil name?
Lily:  Smirch.
Gracie:  Like, listen to this.  Which one sounds like the evil character:  Mrs. Brody...  Mrs. Mack...  or Mrs. Smirch.
Lily:  Smirch.
Dad:  We talked a bit about how this book has a historical setting.
Gracie:  But it was also magical.
Dad:  The author did a good job describing what life on the prairie was like.
Gracie:  Yeah.  And then she did a good job describing what life was like with a Leprechaun for a neighbor.
Elijah:  It's a Brownie!  Louisa finds a Brownie.
Dad:  Brownies!  That sounds delicious!
Elijah:  No.  A Brownie is a little short man with a beard!
Dad:  Like you?
Kids: Ha ha ha hah!
Dad:  Elijah is a little short man.
Gracie:  But he doesn't have a beard.  You do.  It's a mix between you and Elijah.
Lily:  There are two kinds of Brownies.  The "little man" brownie and the "eating" brownie.  And you can't get them mixed up.  That would be pretty bad.
Dad:  Back to the story...
Gracie:  The author shows how difficult life really was back then on the Prairie Days.  She expresses that really well throughout the book.  But then she mixes in magical creatures.
Isaac:  It's a good mix... showing life a long time ago, but also with some fantasy.  It doesn't overdo it either way.  It's a good mix.
Lily:  Louisa crawls into a little hole that she thinks is a badger hole.
Elijah:  But she found a Brownie!
Gracie:  He's got a pointy little hat.
Lily:  And he can talk to animals.
Gracie:  She meets lots of fun little friends along her journey.  Like a pronghorn.  And wolves.
Elijah:  And a Brownie!
Dad:  Isaac, I have a question for you...
Isaac: (hesitantly)  Yeeeees?
Dad:  I've read a bit of debate online recently.  Some people claim that boys don't like books with girls as main characters.  What's your opinion?
Isaac:  Uhhh...  It depends on the book.
Dad:  They say that girls will read books with boys as main characters, but boys won't read books with girls as main characters.
Isaac:  That's not true.  It just has to be the right book.  I mean, boys aren't going to want "Barbie Princess."  It just depends on what the story is.
Dad:  Any examples of books you like that have girls as main characters?
Isaac: (Isaac starts rattling off books, no hesitation...)  The "Amulet" books have a girl in it -- those are graphic novels though.  "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon" would be another good book.  "A Series of Unfortunate Events" has two girls and one boy.  "A Wrinkle in Time" is not really a boy book or a girl book.  It's just a really good book I would suggest for people to read...
Dad:  So what about "The Prairie Thief"?  Is it a book that boys would read?
Isaac:  I don't know about all boys.  But in my opinion I thought it was good.  *I* liked "The Prairie Thief."
Lily:  Sleeping overnight with wolves. Riding on pronghorns. Climbing into mysterious holes.  That all sounds like stuff boys would like.
Elijah:  Yeah, it has to do with wolves and coyotes!  And Brownies!
Isaac:  It's a really good story.
Dad:  Great - thanks guys!  So, are you ready for your blurb now, Gracie?
Gracie:  Okay, I think I've got it.
Dad:  Let's have it.
Gracie:  "'The Prairie Thief' is a mystical mystery not to be missed."
Dad:  Hey, good blurb!
Gracie:  I'm the blurb master now.

Louisa crawls into the hole, by Lily

Louisa meets a wolf, by Isaac 

Louisa rides a pronghorn, by Gracie

Brownie riding a wolf, by Elijah

Author: Melissa Wiley
Illustrator: Erwin Madrid
Published, 2012: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Like it?  Here it is


Jeanette W. Stickel said...

Could I hire Gracie to write a blurb for my next book?

Great review!

Lori Norman said...

You have a very creative way of reviewing books. I love the interaction with the kids and Dad. Getting the children's take (at various ages) in addition to an adult's point of view is priceless. Thanks!

Beth said...

I liked the book, but I thought the peril was too large for the tone; the threat of hanging was HUGE for me. I suspect as a kid it wouldn't have bothered me at all.

My boy (14) didn't read it, but I think that was because the cover looked young. He definitely doesn't mind girl protagonists -- Tamora Pierce, Garth Nix, and Karen Cushman are all authors whose books starting girl protagonists that he recommends.

Joanna said...

It sounds like you've been reading Shannon Hale's blog, unless there are a bunch of other authors discussing whether or not boys will read books with girls as the protagonist. I was really interested in the discussion myself, because I remember choosing to read the Hardy Boys over Nancy Drew as a girl because they got beaten up more! They seemed to have better adventures. If you haven't read Shannon's blog, I would recommend it. She has some good thoughts.

Sarah Albee said...

What a delightful book review! I will most definitely be stopping back to read more. Thanks!

ElizT said...

Elijah's wolf is a winner[and his Brownie of course]

Heidi Noel said...

I loved the blurb. Amazing alliteration, Gracie.

I have been thinking about the guys reading girl books lately, too. I actually have a hard time with boy protaganists because they often make choices I would not make and would not want my own child to make. That isn't fair to lump them together like that, but it has been my observation lately.

My son is very much about girl and boy books. He enjoyed Savvy by Ingrid Law but liked Scumble better. He won't read a lot of books I suggest, either. When he was younger Junie B. Jones was his favorite. *sigh* Maybe I will start reading aloud to him again...if he will let me.

MotherReader said...

I love the scenes that everyone decided to illustrate - and quite nicely, I'll add. (And great blurb writer in the house!)

Em said...

This is my new favorite blog. NEW FAVORITE BLOG! I love these reviews! You kids (and Dad) are awesome! I love the illustrations too! I've seen this cover around the interwebs and always thought it looked nice, but wasn't sure what it was about (and was totally lazy about looking into it). Thanks for the introduction and blurbs and such!

Annette Whipple said...

It's been a long time since I was last here at your blog. :) I am finally going to do you get the interview/reviews typed? They are rather lengthy!

Do you have tips for how you have taught your own children to draw?

Z-Kids said...

Hi Annette,

We all sit down with a book, and I capture the conversation that ensues with a digital recorder. Later, on my own, I'll play it back and type up all the dialog.

The kids love to draw and do it all the time for their own pleasure. Mainly our role as parents has been to make sure the house is well stocked with paper! Their drawing abilities really have just come with constant practice because they enjoy it :)