Friday, March 27, 2015

Thick as Thieves Book Review

Circle C Milestones from Kregel Publications is part of Susan K. Marlow's series of wholesome books for kids. These are Christian-based stories that revolve around horses and adventures from the perspective of Andrea "Andi" Carter. Andi grows up in San Joaquin Valley, California in the 1870-1880's. Her family owns a ranch and her best friend is her trusty horse, Taffy, who she raised from a foal.

Andi's many adventures teach lessons about family, faith and friends. In Susan K. Marlow's newest book, Thick as Thieves, the theme is friendship. Andi is a character that many girls can relate to. Her emotions easily read through and you feel like you are experiencing the story with her. In Thick as Thieves, Andi struggles with finding time for her horses and balancing school. Readers have to keep in mind that school was very different during the 1800's, especially for farming and ranching families. Andi meets an unlikely friend at school, Macy, who is quite unlike the other students. They forge a friendship that teaches readers to be compassionate to less fortunate people. Macy is able to help Andi on her adventures and they are able to rescue Andi's horses from cattle rustlers.

The Circle C books are well written for children and you are always left wanting to find out what Andi's next adventure is. We used to read these books at bedtime for Bean, during our Wild West themed unit study. They are wonderful for incorporating into a themed unit study on the Old West.

Thick as Thieves has a downloadable Study Guide available that is perfect for homeschoolers or students who want to use this book with a study guide. The study guide is 40 pages long and definitely worth checking out. It has so many educational activities, which are grouped by chapters, and include vocabulary lessons, comprehension questions, and other literacy activities. There is also an answer key for teachers at the end of the study guide. Each of the Circle C books has an available study guide. Some have lapbooks, activity pages, and/or coloring pages available.

Circle C Beginnings is perfect for children ages 6-9, Circle C Adventures are for children 9-14 and the new series, Circle C Milestones are for children 12+. If you start reading the books when your children are young, they really will feel like they are growing up alongside Andi Carter. However, you don't need to read any of the previous books if you are beginning with the Circle C Milestones series. If you are wondering about Andi's past experiences, you can check out her blog or read about her history on the website. (There's also Goldtown Adventures for 9-12 year old boys.)

We own the entire Circle C Adventures series and really like it. I happen to enjoy historical fiction to begin with, so it was a good fit for us. As far as historical fictions go, it's easy to get sucked into the book and jump back in time to experience life in the Old West. Bean even pointed out that they use kerosene lamps because they don't have electricity, which is something we are familiar with, because our family owns a cottage on an island with no electricity and we use kerosene lamps at night. It was really awesome that she remembered that, especially since we haven't been to the lake since last summer! Whenever we come across a part of the story that doesn't seem "modern," Bean points it out and we discuss the differences and similarities between then and now, like the lack of cars and the trains being steam engines. My great grandfather actually used to run a huge ranch with a couple thousand acres and used to go on cattle drives, so we're able to tell her the stories we know.

Some people ask me why I teach my children about history, since my children are so young. Children under 8 usually can't grasp the concept of history. Like, for instance, they may not understand why life was so different 200 years ago. So we don't focus on dates whatsoever. We simply focus on names, locations and events. Certainly, I mention dates here and there, but they are just numbers on a calendar. So when we introduced Bean to the Circle C books and mentioned that they took place during the 1800's, she didn't bat an eye. She simply asked whether they took place during the Wild West years, which they did, and that gave her a good mental image of what to expect. While reading the books, we looked at maps (many can be found on Andi's blog) and pictures of California. We even read a handful of dime novels. But Bean's favorite activities usually involve a small world. So we created one using her Safari Ltd. Wild West and Down on the Farm TOOBs.

We enjoy reading the Circle C books and plan on picking up Circle C Beginnings, to see where it all started. Plus, that would be the appropriate age for my daughter. What I really like about these books is that they paint a nice picture of the Old West. It is an easy to read series, so even reluctant readers shouldn't have issues with it. I love that each book comes with a lapbook, activity pages, or study guides. I would suggest printing them out and having them handy while you're reading. I love that the author has put so much into these books and made it so easy for homeschoolers to access learning materials to go along with the books. Not too many authors do that. Another thing to point out, is that despite the time difference, Andi's experiences are definitely those that modern children can relate to. In this book, Andi struggles with her classmates and becomes friends with someone she normally wouldn't have. It's like a "don't judge a book by its cover" kind of moment for Andi.

Look forward to Heartbreak Trail, the next book in the Circle C Milestones series (coming in July). The TOS Crew will be reviewing that book as well!

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