The Prairie Thief

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This week saw the arrival of Melissa Wiley’s new books, the early reader Inch and Roly Make a Wish and the middle-grade novel The Prairie Thief.

Sophie’s reaction to Inch and Roly was, “Are there any more pages?” 

I haven’t yet begun reading The Prairie Thief to the girls yet because I selfishly wanted to devour it first myself. And devour was definitely the word for it. If The Prairie Thief had been food, l I’d have wolfed it down without stopping to chew. I’m looking forward to a second read through more slowly with the girls so I can really savor it.

Quick thoughts about The Prairie Thief, trying carefully to avoid spoilers so just a few hints as to my favorite moments. I’m sure I’ll be writing more after the second read through when I’m actually thinking about what I’m reading rather than racing across the surface of the book at the speed of a running prongorn to find out What Is Going to Happen Next:

Pronghorn!

Wolves!

Mrs Mack!!!

So many great twists and turns. I love a book that can surprise me and this one had lots of that. It definitely felt like a return to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s prairie world but with a distinctive twist of magic and mystery. Almost as soon as I began reading I plum forgot I was reading a book by one of my blog friends and lost myself in the world of the story.

I love the name O’Gorsebush. And Smirch.

I love how Melissa Wiley writes about hair. She just gets it. I have two little girls. Who usually wear braids. By the end of the day if the braids haven’t come out completely, they are pushing the wisps out of their face so they can eat (or aren’t and are getting food in their hair which I have to comb out the next day.) Two little girls running around on the prairie all day do not have neat, tidy braids. Hair needs to be brushed and rebraided in order to look neat and presentable for a trip into town. Thank you, Lissa, for getting that detail right.

This may seem a silly thing to include but I am so, so glad to have a character need to use the outhouse. Can’t tell you how much it bugs me that no one in the Little House world (or so many other works of historical fiction) ever seems to need a privy or chamberpot. Did Pa Ingalls build an outhouse in Little House on the Prairie? One assumes so; but Laura never says. We get detailed accounts of building the house and barn and digging the well, I always wondered about the sanitary arrangements but Laura is always, maddeningly mum on that point. So glad that this book doesn’t shy away from that early-morning necessity.

Endings often disappoint me. They wind up too quickly without allowing you to savor the resolution. This one felt just about right. You know what makes an ending for me—I just realized this now—it’s when the author provides a little more, a twist at the end that implies more story, more adventures, new characters and new wonders in store. That’s why one of my favorite novel endings of all time is Guy Gavriel Kay’s ending of Tigana. Pitch perfect as far as I’m concerned. The Prairie Thief nails that moment. Instead of ending on the happily ever after it leads you to wonder: Now what’s going to happen next? That’s the way I like to leave a good yarn. 

Also, don’t miss Lissa’s post about the wildlife conservation center inspired her book.

19 Responses to The Prairie Thief

  1. Bearing September 1, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    Brave you!  I like to go to the museum with one or two older kids, which of course means I don’t go as much as I would like.  But i love that sort of one on one time. 

    I have very fond memories of taking an 8yo boy to a Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit.

  2. dweej {House Unseen} September 1, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    This post is so beautiful, Melanie!  I got chills seeing your photos.  Would love to be able to take my kids to a “real” museum- the older three would definitely all appreciate it and the younger two don’t really have a say wink

    p.s. Your parenthetical warning down there about fake email addresses is hilarious

  3. Mary September 2, 2012 at 9:16 am #

    What wonderful pictures!  I haven’t been to the MFA in years; bad back, bad knees, and the thought of a museum exhausts me before I even start out.  I didn’t think they allowed you to take photos, though?

    And what a beautiful name for your soon-to-be-born!

  4. Melanie Bettinelli September 2, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    Mary, They don’t let you take photos with flash; but there wasn’t a prohibition on taking pictures without flash.

    And thank you. We are already very fond of the name.

  5. Ellie September 2, 2012 at 11:12 am #

    Melanie, I love how you slip in the news about the baby grin Lucia Rose is a lovely lovely name. So exciting that’s she’s on her way to you.

    I love museums. I so miss being able to take my children to them. What a wonderful post. My eldest and I went to the MFA many times when he was little. For my daughter’s 13th birthday this week she chose a family trip (sans Mama) to the BigMuseum in the BigCity.

  6. BettyDuffy September 1, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    That first pic is frameworthy itself.

    Loved this.

  7. Kat L September 2, 2012 at 2:23 am #

    So sweet! When I was about 8 I went to that very place to see a Monet exhibit, inspired by Linnea in Monet’s Garden. What a memorable experience!

  8. Erika September 2, 2012 at 3:48 am #

    Beautiful, Melanie! Good for you taking the kids, too. Even if the little guys don’t remember the details, the trip will be a part of the whole culture they’re blessed to grow up in!

    And Lucia is one of my favorite names… smile

  9. GeekLady September 2, 2012 at 3:58 am #

    Wow, that looks like a wonderful exhibit!  We went to the traveling Impressionists exhibit when it was in Houston, but our art museum tends toward the more contemporary ‘art’ and sadly isn’t really work repeat visits.  (For art, read things.  Like the 6’x6’ canvas consisting entirely of dead houseflies.)

    But the natural science museum is worth the membership!  It’s hard to get David all the way through the new paleo hall though.  It starts at stromatolites and has the worlds largest trilobite collection, so it takes a while to get to the big dinosaurs, and he gets tired and hungry.

    Is baby Lucia a girl, or is that a placeholder name?

  10. Melanie B September 2, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    bearing, Bella would love going to a Georgia O’ Keeffe exhibit. O’Keeffe is one of her favorites., Mine too. Sadly, the MFA doesn’t have any O’Keeffe.

    dweej, the email warning is all Dom’s doing. So annoying to get bounce back email notifications when people leave fake emails.

    Betty, That one is my favorite. My mom got a great shot! And it’s one of the few I have of all four kids.

    Kat, That sounds awesome.

    Erika, sadly I’m better at doing big exciting things like trips museums than enforcing daily handwriting practice.

    Geek Lady, the MFA does have it’s share of the “art” stuff. We skipped those galleries. Harvard has a small but truly awesome museum of natural history that we’ve been to once. We need to go again.

    I think I’ve neglected to put an announcement here. I did on Facebook and then got distracted. The baby is definitely a girl and we’re calling her Lucia Rose. Pronounced in the Italian way with a soft “ch”. But probably her nickname will be Lucy. Rose was Bella’s choice. St Rose of Lima is also my confirmation saint.

  11. The Sojourner September 3, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    I came down here just to comment on “Lucia.” smile Your kids all have such awesome names.

  12. Lesley September 3, 2012 at 3:15 am #

    Hi Melanie

    I well remember taking my son aged around 8 to the National Gallery to see the Monet Waterlillies painting.  He had been studying impressionists at school and bounced through the galleries (attracting lots of attention, saying “thats Renoir, that’s Van Gogh etc) then when we arrived at the Waterlillies just stopped dead and didn’t move for over 10 mins (and if you knew him you would understand how amazing that was!), he was totally overwhelmed by the size, colour and texture, so different from seeing a one dimensional copy of a picture, it remains one of my favourite memories of his childhool.

  13. Dorian Speed September 9, 2012 at 2:12 am #

    Love this! I haven’t yet ventured to Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts although it’s supposed to be excellent. I need to do so as training for my kids before I drag them all over France (poor, oppressed youth).

    Hooray for Lucia Rose! Beautiful name.

  14. Lesley September 10, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    Melanie

    Isn’t it wonderful to see our children really appreciating art.  I am thinking its about time to take my grandchildren to see some “real art”.

    Lesley

  15. Melanie Bettinelli September 10, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    Lesley, it is wonderful. And what’s amazing to me is how easy it has been. Just buying a few books and putting them on the shelves and occasionally looking at pictures with them. It’s really about sharing my own love for art, which they are quite eager to do. I suppose people for whom art seems to be a chore must never have been given the chance to fall in love with any art themselves, which strikes me as more than a little sad.

  16. Melanie Bettinelli September 9, 2012 at 7:32 am #

    Lesley, My computer has now eaten my comment to you twice. I just wanted to say that’s an awesome experience. Bella too was really struck by how different it was to see the pictures in person. Her favorite for texture was definitely Van Gogh.

    Oh and this morning I found that the The National Gallery of Art has some great prices on prints. I asked Bella to come look. “Can we get the Mary Cassatt? Can we get the Degas ballerina? Can we get the Van Gogh Starry Night?”

  17. Jennifer G. Miller September 11, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    My boys love the art museum. We need to take another trip soon. Very inspired by your post.

    I was thinking of you this morning, as I’m reading “The Spirited Child” regarding my youngest. I had read it through for my first child and nothing resonated with me. But now for my second son and second read, it is totally him! Some of the things you describe with Ben seem so like my 4 1/2 year old…

  18. Melanie Bettinelli September 11, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    Jennifer,

    I think I need to check that book out. Thanks for mentioning it.

  19. Enbrethiliel September 13, 2012 at 2:31 am #

    +JMJ+

    It was lovely to join your children for this “field trip”! I’m sure they’ll remember it forever. =)

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