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The Prairie Thief


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About the Author

Melissa Wiley is the author of the Inch and Roly series and other books for children, including The Prairie Thief and two series of novels about the ancestors of Laura Ingalls Wilder. She lives in San Diego with her comic-book-writing husband, a half dozen kids, and about 3,000 books. She blogs about her family's reading life at Here in the Bonny Glen: MelissaWiley.com/blog. Erwin Madrid is a children's book illustrator based in San Francisco, where he earned his BFA at the Academy of Art College. He has worked for PDI/Dreamworks Animation on films like Shrek 2 and the Madagascar sequels. He has also done concept art for the gaming industry for titles like Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. In his spare time, Erwin travels and goes plein air painting.


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, NY (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

"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"

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