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Book Review: Andrea Carter and the Long Ride Home (Circle C Adventures #1) by Susan K. Marlow

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Andrea (Andi) Carter is a headstrong, active young girl (a bit of a tomboy in truth) living in the 1880s in California on her family’s ranch – the Circle C. Filling her days with chores, fun in the outdoors, and time spent with her beloved palomino Taffy isn’t enough to keep her out of trouble, however. When this twelve-year-old’s disobedience heralds a possible removal from the farm and her horse, she takes matters into her own hands and runs away from home.

After a horrifying encounter with a horse thief she resolves to find Taffy before heading home. Finding refuge with a Mexican family who serves as traveling agricultural laborers, Andi works as one of them while she spends any spare time tracking her horse. Soon there is much more at risk than recovering her steed when she falls into the hands of a malicious young girl who is bent on having what Andi holds dear.

Our family began reading the Circle C Adventures series (or the Andi books as we soon began to call them) aloud at bedtime when my oldest daughter was five. Though intended for the 9 – 12 year-old age range as an independent reading chapter book, we found Susan K. Marlow’s prose a wonderful choice for our family. Featuring excellent, high-quality prose, and an invigorating storyline, Andrea Carter and the Long Ride Home quickly became a story we couldn’t get enough of.

Filled with suspense, and truly dangerous situations, there were moments when I was uncertain if my little girl could weather the exciting and intense situations Andi found herself in. She sailed through, though clearly concerned for our heroine, and Andi became a new favorite character in our home.

Written from a Christian worldview, Andi’s troubles are underscored by her growing reliance on the Lord to see her through the difficulties that are a result of her poor choices. Andi’s decisions have clear negative repercussions that she learns to be responsible for, despite her initial tendency to shirk disciplinary consequences. Clean language, a romance-free storyline, a likeable character who learns and grows, and truly wonderful writing set The Long Ride Home heads and shoulders above typical chapter book series aimed at this age range.

As a homeschooling mother herself, Marlow has found that the Andi books have proven popular with homeschoolers. Her rich use of language adds depth and intelligence to her work while gently expanding vocabulary skills. A downloadable 22-page study guide written by he author further explores the historical setting of the book, geography, cowboy life, and more. Lapbooks have also been developed to correspond with the series for added educational benefit.

With the timeless combination of a girl and her horse, and the exciting adventure elements, this title – and the series in general – are an excellent choice for families with both boys and girls.

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