The Grift of the Magi

While it’s not 100% necessary for you to read Ally Carter’s Heist Society series (Heist Society, Uncommon Criminals, and Perfect Scoundrels) before reading The Grift of the Magi, it is highly recommended. You may not fully appreciate the characters in this novella if you haven’t gotten to know them a bit through the series.

Last night, I got to dive back into the Heist Society series via a new holiday novella, The Grift of the Magi. Those familiar with the series already know that it centers around a group of savvy teen thieves (think a YA version of Ocean’s Eleven), and not much has changed in this latest story.

The Christmas season is growing closer, and someone has stolen a valuable donation from the Magi Miracle Network. The charity doesn’t want to go to Interpol about the theft, so they turn to Katarina Bishop, a girl known for stealing treasures and returning them to their rightful owners. This time, she’s charged with finding out what happened to the rare Faberge egg that was mysteriously stolen from the Magi Miracle Network, and she must do it before the charity’s upcoming auction.

Kat begins investigating both the charity and their infamous donation, and her search leads her to some familiar faces. Her boyfriend, Hale, for one. His beloved late grandmother founded the Magi Miracle Network, so he obviously has a stake in what’s going on. At first, Kat wonders if he could have had something to do with the theft, but it doesn’t take long for her to dismiss that notion. But she still wonders if someone close to her could be involved. It’s entirely possible…

As Christmas–and the charity’s auction–draws ever closer, the hunt for the Faberge egg leads Kat and company to the manor home of its donor. Something foul is afoot here, and Kat is determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. She’ll need to use every resource at her disposal to uncover the truth, but even that may not be enough.

Will Kat find the egg and return it to the Magi Miracle Network? What else will she uncover in the process? Whatever happens, this is sure to be a Christmas that Kat Bishop will never forget…


This fast-paced novella combines the magic and wonder of Christmas with a fair amount of trickery and thieving. Not a bad combo, in my opinion. Like the novels that preceded it, The Grift of the Magi delivers memorable characters, twists and turns, and an exciting, eventful story. I highly recommend it to middle grade audiences and up.

It was so much fun revisiting the characters I came to love during the Heist Society series. I truly hope we’ll see more of them in the future.

For more information on Ally Carter, the Heist Society series, and her other wonderful books, visit her website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

How to Steal a Dog

Sometimes my job as an elementary school librarian forces me to pick up books that I normally wouldn’t. My latest read is one of those books. It’s How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O’Connor, and it’s one of the titles selected for my district’s Battle of the Books competition this year. I can’t really quiz my kids on the book if I haven’t read it myself, so I devoted much of last night to reading this one.

Normally, I shy away from books with dogs on the cover. I blame Old Yeller for this. It’s difficult, however, to work in an elementary school and stay away from “dog books” completely. They’re everywhere. (There are two on this year’s Battle of the Books list and more on the South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominee list.) Luckily, How to Steal a Dog wasn’t quite as painfully heart-wrenching as most. It did have its emotional moments, but it didn’t leave me with a crying-induced headache at the end. That’s a good thing.

Georgina Hayes needs to find a way to make some quick money. Her dad left Georgina, her mom, and her little brother with almost nothing, and they’ve been living in their car for way too long. They need a home, but Georgina’s mom is working two jobs and still struggling to make the money needed to make a deposit on a house or apartment. Georgina knows there’s got to be a way to help her mom, but what is this young girl supposed to do?

Well, after seeing a reward poster for a missing dog, Georgina gets the bright idea to steal a dog. But it can’t be just any dog. It has to be a quiet, friendly dog. A dog that is loved by its owner. A dog that someone would pay a lot of money to get back.

Georgina writes down her dog-theft plan in her notebook, and, with the help of her little brother Toby, she puts her plan into action. She finds the perfect dog, nabs him, and waits for the reward posters to go up. But nothing really happens the way Georgina wants it to. She feels guilty about what she’s done, and the dog’s owner may not have enough money for a big reward. This sticky situation is quickly spiraling out of control, and Georgina doesn’t know which way to turn.

Can Georgina turn things around and get the money she and her family need? Will she do the right thing, or will she see her dognapping through to the bitter end? What will happen to make Georgina face all the wrongs in her life and do what she must to make things right? Read How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O’Connor to find out!

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On a rather serious note, How to Steal a Dog, like Almost Home by Joan Bauer, shines a light on something that gets way too little attention…homeless children. When most people think of the homeless, they envision older people who live on the streets. They don’t realize that some of those people have children, children who still have to go to school, do their homework, and deal with social pressures…all while worrying about where they will sleep at night, if they’ll get a shower this week, or where their next meal is coming from. For me, I think this book made me more aware of what my students may be going through outside of the school walls. Not all of them have a nice house to go home to every day. Not everyone has a mom and a dad there every night to help with homework. Some kids don’t have that extra money needed for class parties, club fees, or even school lunch. That’s something that many educators–myself included–don’t really think about enough. My hope is that How to Steal a Dog will make other readers reflect on these issues and maybe–just maybe–foster just a little more empathy for those around them.

I look forward to discussing this book with my Battle of the Books team. I think they–and many of my other students–will have a lot to say about Georgina’s desperate situation and what they may have done differently.

For more information about How to Steal a Dog and other books by Barbara O’Connor, check out the author’s website.