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Andrea Carter and the Family Secret Review by Donna Campos

By Susan K. Marlow
Kregel Publications
PO Box 2607
Grand Rapids, MI 49501

Set in the San Joaquin Valley of California in the fall of 1880, Andrea Carter and the Family Secret is the third book in the Circle C Adventures series. This softcover book of 140 pages provides another installment in the story of 12-year-old Andrea Carter. References to Andi's previous experiences will likely lead a first time Circle C Adventures reader to her other books and will refresh the memory of seasoned fans. The story line of the book stands alone and is not dependent on the other books in the series, although references to Andi's previous adventures will likely influence a reader to seek out those books. The series is enjoyable reading for students in the "tween" years, those in upper elementary grades and lower teenage years. Although the series is not written exclusively for homeschools, it is written by a homeschooling mother who understands the need for clean, quality reading materials for children. Additional (optional) resources are available through Susan K. Marlow's website:

In her usual style, Susan K. Marlow references the Bible as she comments on the Biblical way we are to behave. The book includes manageable chapters, never more than nine pages in length and often including break points marked by the Circle C Brand. Prayers are very honestly presented as Andi often calls to God for help. Andrea Carter and the Family Secret keeps you reading once you are drawn into the story. Wonderful descriptions allow the reader to visualize the participants and places in the book.

Our family quickly fell in love with the Circle C Adventures. Susan K. Marlow is an excellent author with a heart for God and a desire for children to understand a relationship with Him more fully. Andi is a terrific representation of a tomboy. Though she lives in the 1880s, she could just as easily be compared to many girls today. Everyone in the family has chores that must be regularly completed as well, another aspect of the story line we enjoy. Bad words are used in a creative fashion--not to tempt children to add those words to their vocabulary but rather to reveal those words as part of negative behavior. In a world where too many people believe children will "hear them anyway" or "know them already," our family is thrilled to see an author hold to purity while writing for children!

If you expect perfection from Andrea Carter, you will be sorely disappointed. She is an incredibly normal preteen girl. She is caught eavesdropping with a younger child when she should have been presenting an example, but I was glad she was caught this time, as it has been an issue she has struggled with in other books. Watching her mature and learn from her mistakes is a wonderful part of reading the series. There is an offer of a "thrashing" by a male teacher on an unruly student. Parents should be aware of this physical act of discipline and use it as an opportunity to discuss personal family beliefs. This particular occurrence will also offer an incredible opportunity to discuss gender roles a century ago, as a male teacher makes the offer in an effort to assist a female teacher. We were glad to see that, at the female teacher's request, the male teacher did not follow through with the thrashing, presenting a beautiful depiction of mutual respect.

The Circle C Adventures should have an honored place on homeschool library shelves. They include Biblical truths, heart-felt prayers, quality writing, and an honest representation of the human heart of a young person growing up. Andrea Carter and the Family Secret did not disappoint. Your only complaint will be having to tuck your children in as they beg for "just one more chapter, please."

Product review by: Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2008.