by Melissa Wiley
First sentence: “The Smirches took Louisa in when her Pa went to jail, but they weren’t happy about it.”
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It’s 1882 on the prairie (Kansas, most likely, since it mentions Topeka a few times), and Louisa Brody’s Pa has just been carted off to jail because several items belonging to their neighbors (the Smirches of the first sentence) have been found in a dugout belonging to the Brodys. The catch, though: the dugout hasn’t been used in years, but no one seems to believe them.
So, it’s up to Louisa to get to the bottom of this mystery. One that involves a smallish magical figure who was only pining for his wife who left him.
There’s really not much more to this little tale: it’s one of those delightfully written fairy stories, but that lacks a lot of substance. Sure, there’s the whole family angle: Louisa loves her Pa, and will do anything to keep him from getting hanged. But, more than that? Not really.
That’s not to say it’s not enjoyable: it is. Louisa’s a determined young girl, and the smallish magical figure is sufficiently adorably cranky. I’m going to probably order a couple for the store, because it’ll do well here in Wichita, with the Kansas angle.
But is it something that’s going to stick with me for a long time? Nope.
(Just for the record: because this is a Cybils nominee, I’ve been asked to make sure y’all know this is my opinion only, and not that of the panel.)