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The Prairie Thief Paperback – August 20, 2013
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Louisa is distraught and confused when her Pa is accused of stealing from their neighbors, the Smirches. To make matters worse, she has to stay with them while her father awaits his trial in jail. The atmosphere in her temporary living situation is toxic, but Louisa finds a bright spot in Jessamine, the Smirches's orphaned niece. Jessamine is full of life, and at first Louisa thinks that she's full of exaggerations, too: Jessamine claims to have seen a gnome. Louisa doesn't believe her-until she comes face to face with the little man herself. Though he seems cantankerous, he has a good heart and is instrumental in facilitating the story's happy ending. Wiley has created a charming, inventive tale that reads like a delightful mash-up of Little House on the Prairie and Tony DiTerlizzi's "The Spiderwick Chronicles" (S & S). Short chapters and the air of mystery and suspense keep the pages turning, and readers will be taken with Louisa, who is sweet and mild-mannered, yet has the strength to fight for what is right. The writing is breezy and lyrical, with lots of dialect to reflect the speech patterns of both the folks in 19th-century Colorado and the gnomes. Occasional full-page black-and-white illustrations are appealing with their painterly appearance and the wide-eyed Pixaresque look of the characters. Some of the characters are rather one-dimensional (Mrs. Smirch is a little too evil; Pa is a little too good), but this is a minor drawback in an otherwise top-notch story.-Amy Holland, Irondequoit Public Library, NYα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"Fans of the Little House books will recognize the setting and enjoy the fantastic twist. Stylized black-and-white illustrations capture key moments and add to the warm tone. The comedic, unexpected, satisfying conclusion hits just the right note. A pleasing folkloric/historical blend." (Kirkus Reviews)
“A charming, inventive tale that reads like a delightful mash-up of Little House on the Prairie and The Spiderwick Chronicles…Mystery and suspense keep the pages turning. [A] top-notch story.” (School Library Journal)
“Wiley has created an appealing heroine in 12-year-old Louisa Brody and an involving adventure to help her exonerate her jailed father. There’s also humor thanks to the wee Scottish brownie who has found his way out onto the prairie. Wiley’s cleverly constructed story…is not only a fine tall tale but also gives some sense of nineteenth-century frontier life.” (Booklist)
Top customer reviews
I knew I didn't have to worry too much about Wiley's newest book ... we loved her Martha and Caroline prequels to the Little House series and I've known her for years online. But after reading the opening sentence of the book ... I was hooked and HAD to pre-read.
Set on the prairies of 1882 Kansas, motherless Louisa Brody is plopped into a tough situation: living with the cranky family that has accused her father of theft while trying to solve who the real thief might be.
The tale woven throughout the pages of this book is a magical journey that allows the reader to embrace Louisa's situation, rant with her at the injustice of it all, and cheer when it all comes right in the end. Louisa is ably abetted by Jessamine, the 9-year-old niece of the Smirches (and isn't that a fabulous name for "bad guys"), and a Circuit Court Judge who knows more than anyone about what's actually going on. Other memorable characters include Mathilda Smirch, who is just begging to be hated, and her obnoxious six-year-old, Winthrop Smirch, the cause of all Louisa's troubles.
My glowing review is seconded by others who read advanced copies; the book was chosen as a Junior Library Guild selection and the Bravewriter Arrow selection for October 2012.
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