It is day 6 on the A to Z April Blog Challenge and we’re going to Fresno.
“Fresno?” you may be asking. “We’ve been globetrotting and now we’re reading about Fresno?”
Well, yes. If you are following along with my Kids Read Your World Challenge, you’ll know that one of the challenges is to find and read a book set near where you live. I happen to live near Fresno where few books are set. So, I was excited when Susan Marlow wrote her Circle C series set on a ranch in the foothills above Fresno.
Thick as Thieves an Andrea Carter Book
Circle C Milestones book 1
written by Susan K. Marlow
Kregel Publications 2015
Thick as Thieves is an action packed historical novel where we meet Andrea Carter, a 14 year old girl who lives on a cattle ranch near Fresno, California in the 1880’s. The book begins with Andi’s palomino preparing to give birth. After much difficulty Taffy finally delivers twin foals. Andi would prefer to stay on the ranch and train her horses than attend school but she has no say in the matter. To make matters worse, Macy, a new student who is illiterate, crude, rude and mean becomes her seatmate. Macy proceeds to make Andi’s life miserable, even causing Andi’s horse to bolt and race away with Andi hanging on for dear life.
Horses and cattle are disappearing from Andi’s family’s ranch as well as from other ranches in the area. Because trouble always seems to follow Andi, she and Macy locate the stolen horses and cattle and devise a plan to rescue the animals which proves to be a very dangerous undertaking leading to a dramatic conclusion.
Thick as Thieves is a book that works on many levels. Through Andi’s journal entries, we see Andi’s growing maturity. Andi learns the value of friendship, family and forgiveness as she gains understanding for someone who is lost and lonely. Andi’s Christian faith is woven throughout the story and serves to guide her as she makes difficult decisions.
Not only is Thick as Thieves and exciting and enjoyable story with well-developed characters but it brings to life California in the 1880’s. Through the pages of this book we learn about cattle ranching, home and school life as well as the early days of the city of Fresno.
This book is recommended for any young teen who loves horses and adventure. It is the first in the Circle C Milestones series. This series comes after the Circle C Adventure featuring Andi at 12 years old for ages 9 to 14, and the Circle C Beginning series featuring six year old Andi for children 6 to 9. Author Susan Marlow shares a 40 page packet of historical information, horse facts, vocabulary, activities and more about ranching life in early California on the Circle C Milestones website.
Because there’s nothing more fun than a field trip we are going to visit with author Susan Marlow.
Thanks for letting A Field Trip Life blog stop by for a visit as part of the A to Z April Blog Challenge. My blog theme this year is Read Your World with Kids’ Books. I am writing today about Thick as Thieves because it is set in the foothills above Fresno. I live near Fresno and hardly anyone sets a book, much less a series in Fresno.
Funny, Claire! I think it’s kind of what folks feel about my hometown of Tacoma. Everybody sets things in Seattle, but nobody would do the same for Tacoma, a city the size of Fresno and only 30 miles to the south.
So, why Fresno? I wanted to set my 1880s ranching/historical/horse books in California—not in the southwest US, and certainly not in the back-of-behind ranching country of eastern Washington. By the 1870s, California was a state with lots going on: a large city (San Francisco) if I wanted a more sophisticated plot setting (San Francisco Smugglers), the mountains and gold country (Trouble with Treasure), and ranching and orchards (not to mention the nice weather). I love the mountains and wanted the books to be set close to the Sierras, but also close enough to a town (for school settings).
So I picked up a Rand McNally map of California and ran my finger down the western slope of the Sierras to find the town in the San Joaquin Valley closest to the foothills (and was also a town in the mid-1870s). My finger landed on Fresno, which met both criteria. And that, as they say, is that.
What’s not to like about 1880s Fresno? I know more about the little valley town of 1,000 (in those days) than I know about my own hometown. I love that 3 creeks (Big Dry Creek, Fancher, and Dog Creek) regularly flooded the town in winter, providing even more real-life plot twists. I don’t know about modern Fresno (it probably has a bad rap, like my hometown of Tacoma, WA), but I really like the original town.
Describe Andi, your main character, in 5 words:
high-spirited, impulsive, compassionate, honest, outgoing
Do you see any of yourself in Andi?
Andi is who I would want to be. We’re both honest and compassionate, but I’m not impulsive or outgoing.
When did you know you were a writer?
I knew I was a writer when my fourth-grade teacher introduced me to outer space. Right away I wrote a story about two children going up to Mars. And I never stopped writing. Even while raising my four children, I homeschooled by day; wrote by night.
Tell us a bit about how travel helps as you research your books:
Traveling is the only way to really see the setting; feel the heat; experience the surroundings. Last year we “followed” the route I had laid out in my mind for Andi’s next adventure, Heartbreak Trail—when she goes along with her brothers on a cattle drive to Los Angeles. There is no substitute for driving through the Tehachapi Mountains, stopping by Ft. Tejon, and then driving through the valley (we drove the route backwards). I would not have believed it for myself that the valley was once much wetter than it is now had we not worked hard to find the Kaweah Oak Preserve. It was worth fighting the heat (must have been close to 100 that day) to tramp through the preserve and really feel what Andi might have experienced in 1884, before the valley dried out. The new story even mentions Tulare Lake, which is—sadly—no more.
I know that you travel to share your Circle C books with readers. What are some of the places you have visited?
My husband, Roger, and I pack up the truck once a year and travel around the U.S. to share Andi’s adventures with homeschooling families at conventions. We’ve been as far east as Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Tennessee; we’ve visited the Midwest (Minnesota, Ohio, Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri); ventured into Texas and New Mexico; and we love traveling the West, closer to home: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, and—of course—California, the setting for the books.
Here’s some quick questions:
A perfect day for me would be:
a warm, sunny morning with no interruptions to write a chapter, broken up with a walk on our 14 acres, followed up by a steaming chai tea and . . . to make the day extra perfect—chocolate.
On long road trips I like to:
work on my computer writing stories!
Purse, backpack or tote bag?
Backpack. Or fanny pack.
What’s next for Andi?
Andi’s going on a cattle drive. It took plenty of persuasion, but her mother finally gave her permission. Andi thinks it’s going to be the adventure of a lifetime. Boy, is she ever in for a surprise. Here’s a quick summary for Heartbreak Trail, coming July 2015:
A real cattle drive is a far cry from what Andrea Carter envisions when she receives permission to accompany her brothers on the trail. Can Andi survive hard work, lack of sleep, danger, and an obnoxious cowhand trying to win her attention?
Thanks so much Susan for sharing your Circle C series of books. We’re looking forward to your next book and wish you many happy trails!