March 7, 2013

The Prairie Thief by Melissa Wiley

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:50 am by suebe2

The Prairie Thief
by Melissa Wiley
Margaret K. McElderry
AR 5.4

Louisa Brody knows her papa is no thief.  She knows it for a fact.

But she can’t deny that their neighbor’s hatchet, pocket watch and china doll were found in the abandoned dugout on their farm either.  And that’s all it takes to get the sheriff to haul Papa off to jail.  Louisa can’t stay on the isolated farm by herself (Mama died when Louisa was hardly more than a baby) so she’s taken in by Mr. Smirch, the very man who sent for the sheriff.

Their little cabin might not have been perfect, but Louisa soon learns that not every family is a loving place to grow up.  Mr. Smirch is kind enough, in a gruff way, but he doesn’t interfer when his wife thunks Louisa on top of the head with a metal ladle.  Their little boys are no better, constantly telling Louisa that they know her Papa is going to hang.  Louisa knows they are just repeating their mama’s words but she doesn’t understand why the woman is so mean.

The only bright spot at the Smirch home is Jessamine, a cousin who was forced to move in with the family when her own parents and brother died.  She and Louisa quickly become friends and allies even as they search for the wee little man that Jessamine saw disappearing into the hazel grove.

On a brief trip back to her family cabin, Louisa discovers that several items are missing.  She knows this should be enough evidence to save Papa but how will she make it to town, 13 miles away, across the prairie?

Fleeing from Mrs. Smirch one dark night, Louisa finds out who has taken everything and why he has hidden it in the dugout.  The only problem is that like her Mama, she has promised to keep his existence a secret.  Will she find a way to prove Papa is innocent without breaking her promise?

Wiley has created a fun story full of old world magic and charm.   I loved the way the old stories come to life amid a new world of tricksters (coyotes) and fleet footed prong horn.

If the story seems a bit slow initially, be patient.  As soon as Louisa decided to escape from the Smirch’s things start moving at a much faster pace.

In Louisa, Wiley has created a character that young girls will love. She’s smart, she’s compassionate and she’s up for the adventure of a life time.  This story combines mystery, fantasy and a satisfying story of family and friendship.

Why not share it aloud with the young book lover in your life?

–SueBE

 

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