The Prairie Thief by Melissa Wiley

Brownie: “brounie or urisk (Lowland Scots) or brùnaidh, ùruisg, or gruagach (Scottish Gaelic) is a legendary creature popular in folklore around Scotland and England. . . Brownies are said to inhabit houses and aid in tasks around the house. However, they do not like to be seen and will only work at night, traditionally in exchange for small gifts or food. Among food, they especially enjoy porridge and honey. They usually abandon the house if their gifts are called payments, or if the owners of the house misuse them. Brownies make their homes in an unused part of the house.” Wikipedia, Brownie (folklore).

What if a brownie, or some other such legendary creatures, were transplanted to the New World? To the prairie? Would these native Scots creatures thrive in the lonesome prairie grasses and winds, or would they be homesick for their native land? Would they, like the European (human) people who came to America, take up new ways while keeping some of the old customs, too?

Melissa Wiley has written a delightful little tale for little girls who love fairies and leprechauns and brownies and all the inhabitants of faery land. My own eleven year old is currently poring over a book that she ordered just last week, Fairyopolis, A FLower Fairies Journal. She saw the book at the library, in the reference section, and just had to have it for her own. If I could get her started, my reluctant reader might just devour The Prairie Thief, too.

I also like the fact that this story for young readers doesn’t shy away from those wonderful, challenging vocabulary words that my young readers at any rate relished and gloried in. Ms. Wiley uses words like “obfuscating” and “predilection” and “amenities” and “laconically” just as handily and appropriately as she does the shorter, also vivid words like “pate” and “mite” and “frock”, all of which might enrich a child’s vocabulary as well as delight her mind.

And why shouldn’t a few new words as well as a brownie or a sprite take up residence in an unused part of a child’s imagination (or even mine)? It was G.K. Chesterton who said, ““Stories of magic alone can express my sense that life is not only a pleasure but a kind of eccentric privilege.”

Eccentric privilege, indeed.

More about brownies.
Jen Robinson’s review of The Prairie Thief.
And another review at Hope Is the Word.

4 thoughts on “The Prairie Thief by Melissa Wiley

  1. I’m so glad you like it, too, Sherry. My younger dd, age 6 3/4, loved it. I haven’t convinced my older dd, age 8 1/2, to read it yet, but I’m not giving up. 😉 (She loves to read but is a wee bit stubborn about recommendations.)

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