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Pioneer and fantasy are not two words I would normally put together. But Melissa Wiley does a charming job melding these two genres in The Prairie Thief.

But the fantasy element still surprised me. I knew Wiley had written some of the extension books for the Little House on the Prairie series about Laura Ingall’s grandmother and great-grandmother. So, I expected a realistic book about prairie life.

I must have looked at this cover twenty times without noticing the tiny gnome-looking fellow in the corner. That should have been my first clue that this book would be a different kind of pioneer novel.

And Wiley’s explanation makes perfect sense. Just as people have immigrated to America, so might the wee-folk like brownies and leprechauns.

The Prairie Thief is the story of Louisa, whose father has just been accused of theft and hauled off to the town jail. Louisa must stay in the house of the very people who accused her father. She is sure he is innocent but has no way to prove it. That is, not until she meets the brownie living near her father’s farm! Along the way, Louisa makes a friend (or two), experiences the unbelievable, and manages to clear her father’s name.

But The Prairie Thief is more than just a good story. It contains a powerful message about assumptions delivered through a clear, memorable picture.

My eldest daughter and I took turns reading this aloud to the younger kids. We all enjoyed this fun story delivered in Melissa Wiley’s engaging writing.

Do you or your kids enjoy books that turn a genre on its head?