So, my fab friend Danae organized a great little homeschool book club last year. It's a low maintenance thing, just a few books a year. Last year we read Trumpet of the Swan, Charlotte's Web, and The Borrowers. This year, we kicked off the year with Melissa Wiley's The Prairie Thief.
Louisa Brody is convinced her pa can't be guilty of stealing from the Smirch family whose accusations have landed her pa in jail in a Colorado prairie town. While Pa awaits trial, Louisa has been sent to live with those horrible Smirches, and she and her new friend Jessamine must unravel the story behind the stolen goods before it's too late for Pa.
Now, before I go any further, you know how I hate spoilers.
So that is all I'm going to tell you about the plot.
What I will tell you about the book is that it's a bewitching blend of literary comfort food and spice. There is the familiar, cozy feeling that we've settled in with Lissa's historical fiction (you know how much we love Martha and Charlotte) and that we get to spend time with the realistic and sweetly brave heroines she conjures. But this book is unique, with its own surprises, not a rerun of anything-Little-House. The writing is lively and magical, and refreshingly wholesome for the intended age group (middle grade.) At the same time, The Prairie Thief deftly but subtly explores for the young reader the ethics of when to tell the truth, or the whole truth, or nothing but the truth. The tightly woven plot is a delight to unwind and the ending will leave your child hoping for a sequel. The book was loved by all in our club.
For our Prairie Thief book club lunch, we had:
(I forgot to get a picture, so just imagine a bowl of delicious soup here.
And, naturally, our hostess covered her dining room ceiling with a tablecloth to prevent spiders from dropping from the dugout ceiling into our soup. )
Dried berry scones:
a bucket of hazelnuts (Nutella on cinnamon swirl bread.
And look! There's the soup!):
And .... (drumroll, please ...) horseradish tea:
(I neglected to get a picture of the tea so I'm substituting this lovely vintage tea cup in an attempt to erase from my mind and olfactory system the rank smell of boiling horseradish.)
The final verdict?
Well, I won't tell you how things turn out for Louisa and her pa, but I can tell you that our group adored The Prairie Thief and eagerly awaits Melissa Wiley's next book. (We hope you're busy writing it, Lissa. If not, we'll bribe you with scones, brownies, and spider-free soup. And next time we'll go with English Breakfast tea, eh?)