My children and I love nothing better than a good high-quality book to use as a family read-aloud. We’re always on the look out for the next book that we’re going to read together. So, when I got the opportunity to review Thick as Thieves, the first book in the Circle C Milestones series, I was excited about the opportunity bring this book into my daily reading time with my children.
About the Book
Circle C Milestones is actually the continuation of the stories of main character Andi Carter and her family with an intended audience of older children. Author, Susan K. Marlow, has written two previous series containing Andrea Carter’s adventures for younger readers–Circle C Beginnings and Circle C Adventures. Circle C Milestones is intended for children 12 and up, and you do not need to have read any of the previous series of books to start with this one. We haven’t read any of the preceding series but we were able to pick up the action and story very easily when our nice trade paperback came in the mail.
Andrea Carter is a fourteen year old young lady, living in California during the 1880s. She’s part of a ranching family, the Carters, who own one of the largest cattle ranches in the area–the Circle C ranch. As the story begins, her beloved horse Taffy is pregnant and ready to deliver her first foal. There’s some drama because the routine foaling goes awry due to the fact that Taffy is carrying twins!
Once Andi and Taffy get through the foaling, a big part of the plot is driven by Andi’s work to train the twins, the school that interferes with her horse training, an unpleasant new girl at school and some mysterious rustlers stealing cattle from the Circle C and other nearby ranches. At the same time, Andrea deals with the pressure all around her to grow up and become a lady, even though she’s not quite ready to make that transition.
I would like to spend the rest of this review sharing some of the things I liked from the story (without giving too much away), but first I also want to mention that there’s also a free downloadable study guide that is a great companion to enrich the book so that you can use this book as a literature study or a unit study for your child. It had vocabulary activities, reading comprehension and thoughtful (and scripturally based) extension questions, further information on horses and topics related to the book as well as some fun activities. I highly recommend use of the study guide to make this a complete literature study.
A Few of My Favorite Things
One of the first things that I couldn’t help but notice when I opened the book was that there was a character theme that Marlow is exploring through the writing in this book. I’m a huge proponent of character/virtue education, so I was excited to realize from the very beginning that I would be able to use this book to highlight a Christian virtue that I want to teach my children. This book’s theme is “Friendship: Unselfishly giving support and expressing compassion to another.” Because I knew the theme from the very beginning, it was easy for the children and I to look for examples of friendship and to talk about the qualities of a friend throughout our reading of the novel.
I loved the big family and the relationships between each of the family members. Each family member had something special to offer to the story and you can see the love and connection between all the family members–even when they don’t get along. I’m constantly telling my children that brothers and sisters love each other, and they were able to see the difference between the Carters (who all loved each other) and the Walkers (who were selfish and not loving). I think that those differences are ones that will stick with the children as they’re thinking about what it means to be a good sibling or an unkind one.
I loved the way that Andi often turns to prayer. She gives prayer of worries to the Lord, prayers of thanks, and prayers asking for help. Good or bad, she’s always turning to God in prayer. I love this because I want to always let my children know that they should pray continually, and it’s refreshing to see a book character who continually turns to God in prayer. There’s a situation near the end of the book where she can’t even think of the words to pray and the book says,
She tried to pray, but no words came. She hurt too much. Tonight she would have to trust God to read her heart and know what she wanted to say.
This is great for so many reasons, but most of all because I want to pass on to my children that even when they don’t know what to play, the Holy Spirit knows what they need.
I love that Macy Walker isn’t a lovable character. It is so much more meaningful when Andi decides to care and make and effort in being her friend because Macy is so repellent. Between Macy’s manners, hygiene and combative personality, no one else is going to make an effort to be Macy’s friend, but Andi does. Not only does this show Andi’s character, but it also shows that friendship and love can develop (through Jesus) between the unlikeliest of people. I also love that Macy can attribute the difference between Andi and her family with her own family is because of the love of Jesus that Andi’s family shows to others.
There are so many good things about this book that I know that if you give it a try, you will probably love it. This is the first Andi Carter book that we’ve read, and we enjoyed it so much that we decided to go back and read more, so we just started on Andi’s Pony Trouble. (I ordered directly through the website above and can attest that the shipping is quick and the products are well packaged.) We’ve decided that we’re going to read all the way through the different series that Kregel Publishing offers for Andi Carter’s life, and of course, we can’t wait for the next Circle C Milestones book to come out this summer. We’re completely captivated by Andi’s world.