• The Prairie Thief Book Review - fantasy for elementary and middle grade
    book reviews,  elementary,  middle grade

    The Prairie Thief Book Review

    It’s time for another book review!

    The Prairie Thief is a book I have been meaning to read for a long time. I got the book out from the library a few times but never made it a priority to read until recently.

    Also, I want to note: the first time I took the book out from the library I didn’t realize it was fantasy – somehow I totally missed the little guy on the cover!

    I have heard people describe this book as Little House on the Prairie with a fantasy twist but I wouldn’t agree with that at all. I would say it’s more Anne of Green Gables or A Little Princess with a fantasy, Spiderwick Chronicles-esq twist.

    I’m going to share a short summary of the book, some of my thoughts about it and who I would recommend it for.

     

    The Prairie Thief Book Review - fantasy for elementary and middle grade

     

    THE STORY

    The Prairie Thief is set in Kansas in 1882 and follows Louisa Brody who has temporarily been sent to live with her closest neighbor (the Smirches) since her father has just been accused of, and arrested for, stealing (from the very neighbors she is sent to live with).

    Louisa is adamant her father is not a thief and is determined to figure out who the guilty one is so she can save him from hanging. Unfortunately the Smirches don’t make life easy on her while she is with them. And while she is trying to uncover the truth she soon learns that things aren’t what they appear on the surface. And once she knows who the guilty party is she still isn’t sure how to clear her father’s name.

     

    WHAT I LIKED

    MEMORABLE CHARACTERS – each of the characters in the story are memorable in their own way, Melissa Wiley does a good job of making it clear which characters we should like and which we should be wary of (even the name Smirches sounds like a bad character, doesn’t it?!).

    A DEVELOPING CHARACTER – Louisa is not a perfect child by any means but I appreciate her attempts to control herself and continue to grow. The inner chats she has with herself, especially faced with a not-so-nice person, are a great example for children who struggle with self control.

     

    The Prairie Thief Book Review - fantasy for elementary and middle grade

     

    GOOD WORK ETHIC – I suppose this being set in the 1800’s has something to do with it but this is another great example for children these days, Louisa has a number of daily chores, especially being the “woman” of the house, and she does them without complaining.

    BIBLE & POETRY REFERENCES – of course almost homeschool parent will appreciate the fact that Louisa’s father’s two books are the Bible and a book of poetry. Louisa enjoys poetry and if you have children who are a little hesitant in this area this book may help spark some interest in that area.

     

    WORTH NOTING

    HARSH CHARACTERS – the Smirch’s, who Louisa goes to live with, are a quite harsh family, especially the mother, I would say she may fall on the side of abusive. I know a lot of families who read this blog are foster parents and/or adoptive parents and I just want to point this out if it is a trigger for your child. Not that you shouldn’t read it, but it may be something you discuss as you read through the book. For most children, who have grown up in loving families, this is a good example of a poorly run home and it may be interesting to point out that back in 1882 people let parents parent how they wanted to, without getting involved themselves or other involved like they do now.

     

    WHO I WOULD RECOMMEND IT TO

    I think this book would be a great read aloud for elementary aged children and a great independent read for 8-12 year olds. Since the main character is a girl I do think it will appeal more to girls but I think the subject is equally interesting for boys so I am hoping to read it aloud to my 6 & 8 year old this summer.

     

    If you’ve read this book before I would love to hear your thoughts!

  • A Fablehaven Book Review - what I liked, what you should know and the ages it's best for.
    book reviews,  high school,  middle grade

    Fablehaven Book Review

    I’m excited to start what will be a nearly-weekly series of book reviews!

    As I explained earlier this week I think it is important to make sure we are aware of what our kids are reading, especially if you are a Christian parent.

    I decided to start by reviewing Fablehaven because it’s one of those books that I have heard a lot of people mention. I have gotten the book out from the library one or two times before but never got around to reading it so I made it a priority this time.

     

    THE STORY

    In Fablehaven sister and brother, Kristen and Seth, go to visit their grandparents for a few weeks, they’ve always known their grandparents were a little strange but they saw them so infrequently they couldn’t figure out why.

    It isn’t long into their stay before they realize that their grandparents vast estate is actually a preserve for all sorts of mystical creatures, both the safe and the not-so-safe. They slowly learn more about Fablehaven and the creatures that live there until something goes wrong and they need to save their family from powerful evil forces.

     

    From an adult standpoint I enjoyed this book, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I would recommend it for everyone. I’m going to share what I liked about the book, what concerns me and what I am planning on doing with my kids as a result.

     

    A Fablehaven Book Review - what I liked, what you should know and the ages it's best for.

     

    WHAT I LIKED

    LIGHT WINS – this is a story with defined good and bad, it even talks about how the evil is darkness and the good is light and it comes to head in a battle with the light winning. I appreciate how this parallels Jesus defeating Satan.

    GREAT VOCABULARY – the book is very well written and has some amazing vocabulary. I have never been a fan of “read through a book and write down any words you don’t know” but if that’s your thing, this is a great book for that!

     

    OF CONCERN

    QUITE DARK – while very well written there are some very dark scenes throughout the book, portions I think would be scary for the sensitive.

    TERMINOLOGY – there are a number of words in this book that may be a red flag for some. There are mentions of demons (the main bad guy is a demon) and the dark arts. There is also talk of hexes and magic.

    Personally, I struggle when fantasy books take terms from real life (like “demons”), on one hand I think it makes the bad guys more obvious but on the other hand I feel like it may be confusing for kids, so I’m not a fan of that use. I wish there would have been a better way of describing the “demon”, maybe by making him a dragon or something that is more fantasy but known to be a bad character.

    TRIGGERS – the story starts out at a wake and talks about the death of grandparents (even says “asphyxiation” and explains how they died because of a gas leak), this could be a trigger for some.

    DISOBEDIENCE – one of the characters in the book is repeatedly disobedient and doesn’t seem to learn from his mistakes. I am okay with flawed characters but wish there would have been more development in this area throughout the book.

    NEGATIVE TOWARD RELIGION – there is one quote in the book that was a major red flag in the book for me (page 114), it says: “No mythology or religion that I know of holds all the answers. Most religions are based on truths, but they are also polluted by the philosophies and imaginations of men.”

    MISPLACED – so, this is no fault of the book itself but it is actually categorized as a teen and young adult book according to Amazon but, at least in my library, it is shelved in the middle grade section and I don’t think it belongs there.

     

    A Fablehaven Book Review - what I liked, what you should know and the ages it's best for.

     

    HOW WE ARE GOING TO APPROACH IT

    After hearing so many good things about Fablehaven I was surprised to walk away with such a list of concerns. Like I mentioned, I enjoyed the book as an adult but that being said, I would hesitate allowing my kids to read it on their own. If anything I would like to read this book aloud with my kids and be able to have a discussion as we go through it, especially when we get to that quote on page 114 (though I would still wait a few years before reading it aloud with them).

    Down the road when my kids are older and also more grounded in their faith I would be willing to let them read the book independently but want to make sure they know that I am open for discussion about it.

    I have only read the first book in the series and have heard they “get better” but I am not sure exactly what that means. As of right now I’m not interested in reading any further but if you are convinced I should, let me know.

    Do you have suggestions for what I should review next? Let me know!