Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Thick as Thieves - A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

Review Crew
In February I learned that we had been selected to review Susan K. Marlow's newest book, Thick as Thieves, made available to us by Circle C Milestones and published by Kregel Publications.  
Thick as Thieves Book Review

When I first learned this book was coming up on our review schedule, I read the sample chapter to help me decide if I wanted to ask for the review. I was immediately all in for this review -- the writing is so well done, and compelling. You want more!

Yet I was concerned because the main character is a 14-year-old girl. I was concerned my 15-year-old son might find the book too "girly". Too late! I was selected for the review, so he was about to experience the book, and I would just have to find out his reaction as we went along.

From the very beginning he enjoyed the book. I read it out loud, because we love to enjoy this type of book together. The story takes place in the 1880s. It centers on Andrea Carter and her family on the Circle C Ranch in California.  We read about two chapters a day most school days. My son listened intently to find out if Andi's (Andrea's) horse and foal(s) would be okay. We both wondered if Andi was over-reacting to Taffy's trouble (the mama horse), but were relieved when Andi's brother was finally available and helped deliver the twin foals.

Andi had to attend school when the foals were still quite young, and sharing her pain at leaving them was nothing compared to her new difficulties when a new student, Macy, was told to share her two-seat desk! My son hated Macy and the things she did to make Andi miserable!

Fortunately, as the story developed, he was able to understand that Macy's behavior was indicative of deeper issues going on:
  • pushing people away, not wanting to get close, because she moved frequently and couldn't "afford" to invest in any relationships, and because her brothers were watching her and she didn't want to draw any of their attention by developing friendships;
  • abuse in the home from her brothers;
  • embarrassment because she didn't know how to read.
There were other things going on, too, and the author did an incredible job of crafting this part of the plot. I was annoyed at the schoolmaster for placing Macy beside Andi in the classroom. I thought he was being spiteful to Andi, and I thought he himself was afraid of Macy. Later, however, when Andi confronted Mr. Blake and he gave his reason(s), I was really impressed, once again, with what Ms. Marlow (the author) was doing with her plot.

This book is fast-moving and engaging. We did reach one point in the story line where we (correctly) predicted who the antagonists were, but it was not unrealistic -- there was still not yet proof. When I was growing up, in my (large) family, if something turned up missing, everyone knew who probably took it, but if you couldn't find it or find proof, there was nothing you could do. That's the way this story was going until an unexpected turn occurred, and you're going to love it!

When the book was finished, my son said he liked it. (This is a difficult thing, pleasing my son!) He said he liked the way it ended, but that he was sorry it was over because he was enjoying it so much! I remember (with my older, graduated home school students) when that type of reaction happened in my home school all the time. That's not the case with this student, so I'm telling you: this is a great book!

To assist you in getting the most out of this book, the author has provided a free study guide that can be used in conjunction with the story. There were two suggestions for how to use the study guide:
  1. As you complete each chapter, complete the study guide for that chapter before beginning the next chapter, or
  2. Read through the entire book the first week, and the 2nd week go back and do the study guide, rereading information as you need to for answers.
We did not use the study guide. The chapters are so engaging, ending with a cliff-hanger so often, that I often read the first few paragraphs of the next chapter before closing the book. My son is not a workbook kinda guy anyway, but he would have been miserable to have been dragged to a slow crawl to have done the study guide chapter by chapter. And once the book was finished, he did not want to look back.

I asked him questions during the reading anyway to check for comprehension and vocabulary. I could have been using the study guide to come up with those questions, but I hadn't printed it out -- I had planned to use parts of it orally off my tablet. The section that would have been most helpful for my son would have been the vocabulary - so I could be sure he had understood the new words in the story, or words that were used in a different context than he had ever heard them used. But overall, the vocabulary was very manageable for my 15-year-old son.

Other members of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew also reviewed this book. To see what other families thought of Thick as Thieves, click the button below. Our product review schedule shows another Circle C Milestones product coming up for review in a couple of months, and if it is a sequel I sure hope I get picked for that review, too!

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1 comment :

  1. Thanks for your great review. It's quite satisfying to learn that a 15-year-old boy found the story engaging. My grandson at 15 always enjoyed the "Andi" books, but part of me thought, "Well, what can he say? I'm his grandma." LOL So it's nice when another young man finds the book to his liking. The next book is a cattle-drive story, and whatever CAN go wrong on a cattle drive DOES go wrong. :-)

    My DD has 8 and homeschools, so I had to chuckle about "missing" items. This is a universal issue with large families! And the other issue is "he said, she said" and poor Mom never knows who is speaking the truth . . . unless you catch them, you really can't know. It's a challenge.
    Thanks again!