Thursday, November 1, 2012

Prairie Somethings

I recently read two very different middle grade books with a connection in the title.  Prairie Evers by Ellen Airgood is a novel about a girl whose first name is Prairie.  This story is realistic fiction with themes of friendship and family.  It is set in modern day New York State.  Prairie Thief by Melissa Wiley had similar themes of friendship and family, but has a bit of magic and is set in the 1800’s.  There are other little connections between the stories as well.  

  • Each story features glimpses of farm or pioneer life. Prairie Evers lives on a plot of open land that allows her to raise chickens.  Prairie Thief is set on the Kansas prairie where the main character, Louisa and her father keep cows, chickens, and more. 
  • Both show a tender side of friendship.  Prairie Evers makes friends with a shy classmate.  The two share secrets and smiles and eventually become as close as sisters.  Louisa in Prairie Thief finds a friend during an unusual situation.   Louisa and her friend new friend, Jessamine, conspire to help each other and hide a magical creature, too.
  • In an unusual connection, both stories critically look at the parenting skills of a minor character.  It’s Prairie’s best friend who has a mother who is disconnected.  It’s an unusual situation that creates friction between the two friends, but also brings them closer together.  Meanwhile, in Prairie Thief, Louisa’s neighbor, Jessamine, has a step-mother who is pure nasty.  While this character is quite unlikable, she provides some comical parts of the story with her arrogant attitude.
  • Best of all, the main characters in each of these stories were smart, resourceful young women.  They each showed that caring for your family and friends can be a sign of strength.
I enjoyed both books for different reasons.  I liked the pioneer spirit in Prairie Thief.  I also thought the minor characters in Prairie Thief were fun to get to know.  One character is a judge who decides young Louisa’s father’s fate, and he really surprised me.  Prairie Evers on the other hand is such a modern and fun story that really appealed to me as a teacher who loves to see adolescents show their personality and get to know themselves.  Prairie’s unique situation of coming from homing schooling to entering into a public school put an interesting twist on this.  I would recommend both books for grades 4th to 7th grade and would be fun read together.

How about you?  Have you read any stories lately with an unusual connection like this?

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