Susan K. Marlow’s middle grade novel Thick as Thieves tells a tale of 1880s California, ranching in the San Joaquin Valley. Thirteen-year-old Andi Carter immerses herself in caring for her horses when her mare gives birth to twins.

At school one day, a new kid sits next to Andi. Unkempt Macy, belligerent and rude, can’t read. She’s mean to everyone, even the little kids. It’s enough to make Andi pretty mad. Something needs to give.

Andi asks the schoolmaster to move her to a different seat, but instead the schoolmaster suggests a kinder, gentler alternative. Can Andi befriend the rough girl instead? Can Andi come to understand why Macy is like that?

Meanwhile, Andi’s brothers, running the ranch, discover that rustlers are stealing their cattle. Who’s doing it?

Andi struggles to befriend Macy, spurred on by the encouragement of her teacher. With the help of a memorized Bible verse, she keeps her temper at a key moment. Andi meets Macy’s mean brothers, the source of her troubles. But things get worse, and Andi finds she has to make a big decision: how far do you go to keep your word?

Thick as Thieves is perfect for Christian families who want to coach their children on living the Christian life. It’s part of a large series of books Marlow has written featuring the Carter family and their challenges. Homeschoolers will be delighted to learn that there are detailed study guides to go with the books.

I highly recommend this book! Five stars: *****

Short Story by Phyllis Wheeler

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