Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Thick As Thieves from Circle C Milestones

Thick As Thieves book review by Homeschool Coffee Break @

I have a daughter that loves to read, meaning I'm always on the lookout for good reading material for her. We were glad to be able to read and review something brand new - the book Thick as Thieves from Circle C Milestones.

Circle C Milestones is the newest book series from author Susan K. Marlow that follows Andrea "Andi" Carter as she grows up in 1880s California. Young readers that started following Andi's adventures in the earlier series, Circle C Beginnings and Circle C Adventures, can continue following her story as she moves through the teen years, but readers who haven't met Andi and her friends before can start with Thick as Thieves without needing to read the previous books.

Thick as Thieves is a story about friendship, with fourteen year-old Andi reluctantly trying to make friends with a trouble-making new girl at her school. Andi's excitement over her mare's brand new foals turns to anxiety and danger when cattle rustlers in the area start to take horses as well. Will Andi's tentative new friendship with Macy help, or put her in even more danger?

A free downloadable study guide to accompany Thick as Thieves is also available. It's 40 pages of vocabulary, discussion questions, historical background, writing activities, and other activities "just for fun". 
Thick as Thieves Book Review

How did we use it?  Kennady summarized the story for me this way: In Thick as Thieves, Andi's beloved horse, Taffy is expecting a foal and Andi is quite anxious about it, but everything goes fine, and it turns out that she has twins! At Andi's school, there's a new girl named Macy who is mean to the other kids, and not well-liked at all. The teacher asks Andi to befriend her, and she tries, but doesn't like her at first - and Macy isn't very nice to Andi at all; she even puts a tack under Taffy's saddle as a prank, which put Andi in danger. Eventually the girls do become friends. Meanwhile there are rustlers stealing cattle from the Circle C Ranch, and one day they take Taffy's foals as well. (Spoiler alert - stop here if you want to keep the ending a surprise!) Macy confides to Andi that her older brothers are the rustlers and helps Andi make a plan to get the foals back before she and her brothers leave the area. However, a rockslide traps and injures Andi, and she's in even worse danger when Macy's brothers find her and want to collect a ransom. (I'll stop there, but with the assurance that there is indeed a happy ending.)

The study guide can be used either after reading the entire book, or by reading the chapters indicated and then working through the accompanying study guide sections for each group of chapters. I chose to let Kennady read the whole book on her own timetable, and then do some of the study guide activities. The guide is in six sections, each covering three to five chapters in the book. There are vocabulary and grammar activities, in each section. We did only the one in the first section, which was about idioms and featured examples from the book. There are some short writing assignments. For example, after discussing characterization, the student is asked to write a character sketch of one of the characters introduced in the book, a favorite Bible character or other admired person, or a fictional character of the student's own invention. Kennady wrote a character sketch of one of the fan-fiction characters she created for her own stories, which was fun for me to read! Each section includes a "Thinking About the Story" collection of questions inviting discussion about the action in the book and how well the student understands the story.
Thick As Thieves book review by Homeschool Coffee Break @
The "just for fun" and enrichment activities include things like crossword puzzles, background information on some of the things that happen in the story (like training foals, lice, and cattle rustling). I especially liked a page that gave examples of math problems eighth graders in the 1880s would have had to solve in school. (Kennady had no comment about that! LOL)  By the way, the answers to the math problems, as well as the answers to all the questions in the study guide are included at the end!
Thick As Thieves book review by Homeschool Coffee Break @
There's even some background on the dime novels of the 1800s, and a first chapter from one published in 1882. Fun!!
Thick As Thieves book review by Homeschool Coffee Break @

What we liked best:

  • I liked that the theme was a Christian view of friendship, and that it was clean and truly appropriate for tween and teen readers.
  • Kennady liked the friendship theme as well, and said that she thought the book would be good for boys and girls to read. Even though the friendship in this story is between two girls, the lessons they learn about being a good friend are for boys and for girls of all ages. She also said that there was plenty of action in the story (the cattle rustling, for example) that she figured would be appealing to boys.
  • Kennady liked that the relationships were realistic. It was hard for Andi to develop a friendship with Macy, just like it really is hard for kids to be a friend to someone they don't like at well. And it wasn't always easy for Andi to do what she knew was right. 
What I need to mention:

  • Kennady does love animals, but she isn't as horse-crazy as a lot of girls, so she told me she didn't quite "get" the bond between Andi and her horses. Not that it bothered her - that was just an aspect of the story and Andi's personality that she couldn't quite relate to. She also said she would have liked to know more about Andi's friend Cory. (I suggested maybe she would have to read other books in the series to help her with that. ;-) )
Our bottom line: Kennady really enjoyed the book, even though it's not her preferred genre (she likes fantasy best - I am the historical novel fan in our family!), and she told me she was sure that her friends that are crazy about horses would especially like it. As I mentioned above, we both liked the age-appropriate and important theme of friendship and how it was presented sensitively but realistically. The study guide is an excellent add-on that homeschoolers can use to enrich their language arts or history studies.
Thick as Thieves Book Review

Would you like to reach for Circle C Milestones for your young readers? Here's what you need to know:

Pricing: Thick as Thieves is available for $9.99 plus shipping/handling. You can also browse sample chapters and download the study guides. You may also want to check out the other books available by Susan K. Marlow.

Recommended Ages: The Circle C Milestones series is for ages 12 and up.

You can follow Circle C Adventures on Facebook, and author Susan K. Marlow on Twitter. "Andi" also has a blog you can follow - see the study guide for that link!

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other reviews. 
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    Andi Carter said...

    Thanks for your lovely review and for your DD's insight as well. Believe this if you will, but I'm not a horse-crazy person either. Our DD had a horse, but *shiver* that was an expensive time of our lives! (the horse stepped on her foot = surgery; the horse broke off the water faucet Christmas Eve = stall flooding). Need I go on? LOL But having the horse was a plus, as I sell the Andi books (and more) at homeschool conventions all over the U.S. Gives me a connection with horse lovers (and being a homeschool mom makes conventions SO FUN! We can all talk "shop" and share homeschool stories.)

    But I loved old TV westerns (action, drama, adventure, and close families), so that was the basis of these books, rather than a strong "horse" thing. But I'm smart enough to realize that the "horse" aspect attracts a HUGE following among those of that bent.

    I'm a sci-fi "girl," in love with Star Trek from it's first episode back in 1966, so I can really relate to your DD. I don't think I would have picked up a "horse" book, but like your DD, if I had, I think I would have enjoyed Thieves as your daughter did, but again, would not have "gotten" it, re: the horse/girl thing. (That was my little sister's thing; Mine was outer space.).

    It was fun reading your review and "chatting."

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