book review,  Books

Book Review: Angel Thieves by Kathi Appelt

As my daughter and I absolutely fell in love with Maybe A Fox while on vacation a few summers ago, I jumped on the opportunity to read and review Angel Thieves by Kathi Appelt. We’re pulling out all the stops on this tour, and my fellow book bloggers have some incredible guest post content along with more reviews and other fun stuff, so be sure to check out their posts (linked at the bottom).

Many thanks to the author for providing me with a review copy of her book. This post *may* contain affiliate links.

angel thieves


Young Adult / Magical Realism / Historical / Contemporary
Publisher: Atheneum / Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Date of Publication: March 12, 2019
Number of Pages: 336

Scroll down for the ANGEL THIEVES giveaway!

angel thieves

An ocelot. A slave. An angel thief.

 Multiple perspectives spanning across time are united through themes of freedom, hope, and faith in a most unusual and epic novel from Newbery Honor–winning author and National Book Award finalist Kathi Appelt.

Sixteen-year-old Cade Curtis is an angel thief. After his mother’s family rejected him for being born out of wedlock, he and his dad moved to the apartment above a local antique shop. The only payment the owner Mrs. Walker requests: marble angels, stolen from graveyards, for her to sell for thousands of dollars to collectors. But there’s one angel that would be the last they’d ever need to steal; an angel, carved by a slave, with one hand open and one hand closed. If only Cade could find it…

Zorra, a young ocelot, watches the bayou rush past her yearningly. The poacher who captured and caged her has long since lost her, and Zorra is getting hungrier and thirstier by the day. Trapped, she only has the sounds of the bayou for comfort—but it tells her help will come soon.

Before Zorra, Achsah, a slave, watched the very same bayou with her two young daughters. After the death of her master, Achsah is free, but she’ll be damned if her daughters aren’t freed with her. All they need to do is find the church with an angel with one hand open and one hand closed…

In a masterful feat, National Book Award Honoree Kathi Appelt weaves together stories across time, connected by the bayou, an angel, and the universal desire to be free.



Angel Thieves
This gorgeous image is on the hardback book cover hidden UNDER the also gorgeous book jacket


Spiritual, succinct, and emotionally gripping. 
— School Library Journal

A heartfelt love letter to Houston that acknowledges the bad parts of its history while uplifting the good. BCBB

Shows the best and worst sides of humanity and underscores the powerful force of the bayou, which both holds and erases secrets.  
— Publishers Weekly

Narrative strands are like tributaries that begin as separate entities but eventually merge into a single thematic connection: that love, whether lost or found, is always powerful. — Horn Book

Richly drawn and important. — Booklist, starred review


I honestly don’t know where to begin with author Kathi Appelt’s latest young adult novel Angel Thieves! The structure, the characters, the writing – they all come together to make something magical. This isn’t just one story, but several separate stories that slowly intersect, with the common tie amongst them being Bayou.

This was a book that DEMANDED I sit down and savor it. The synopsis was intriguing but admittedly, going into I could not figure out how the different characters and smaller storylines would relate. The plot unwinds slowly, and Appelt doesn’t divulge much of anything at first. Instead, the details are handed out slowly and carefully, not unlike how my son, as a toddler, would carefully and meticulously share Goldfish crackers from his snack cup, placing each tidbit in your hand with studied intent. The story does jump between points of view, and the timeline does as well (hop around, that is) don’t expect a tidy unfolding of the story.

That said, it’s a book with which you need to be patient and just let the story flow. And flow it does, with language that is simply beautiful and lush. Some of the most beautiful passages belong to her characters which have been anthropomorphized, the Buffalo Bayo and Zorra the ocelot, and the chapters on the marble field and the marble carver.

Give us Georgia after the long march, afther the thin boy and his people wer forced out of their mountains and all they knew, when the marble lay there untouched, quiet, just as it had when it formed on the bottom of the ancient sea floor, pressed down by water and ice, pressed first into limestone and then into marble. Metamorphic. Silent. Rising up through the receding watersuntil it sat just beneath the georgia dirt, waiting. Waiting for a new carver.

– from Angel Thieves by Kathi Appelt

The Bayou’s chapters serve to pull the timelines together, present day and Achsah’s and the era of slavery in Texas after winning its independence from Mexico. It has a mind of its own, traps things in its depths, spitting them up for others to find when it wills it.

The bayou’s no angel, that’s a fact. But who’s to say she hasn’t seen one or two, their tattered wings, their tangled hair.

– from Angel Thieves by Kathi Appelt

Now, I’m newish to Texas, so I haven’t studied 7th-grade Texas history like my children have*, and this book was eye-opening from a historical standpoint and I found the history fascinating. I was not aware that one reason behind the Texian fight for independence from Mexico was to allow slavery in Texas, necessary for the success of the wealthy land owners to grow cotton and sugar-cane. (Neither did I realize that slavery was illegal in Mexico). It was also new information that the underground railroad also ran south to Mexico, allowing slaves in Texas or Louisiana to flee to freedom. (*I’ll be curious to learn if any of this was taught to my children in Texas History.)

Needless to say, I love any novel that I can walk away from having learned something new. This book offered the opportunity in multiples all the while entertaining.

The different POV wind around each other and wrap up quickly. I confess I did want a little more from Soleil’s story, particularly as it intersected with Cade’s. Overall, though, this book was a delight (you just have to stop asking “what is going on” and let the stories unfold on their own. Angel Thieves is a novel of what we do for those we love, of what makes a family, and of survival.


Kathi Appelt author of Angel Thieves

Kathi Appelt is the author of the Newbery Honoree, National Book Award finalist, PEN USA Literary Award–winning, and bestselling The Underneath as well as the National Book Award finalist The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, Maybe a Fox (with Alison McGhee), Keeper, and many picture books including Counting Crows and Max … Attacks

She has two grown children and lives in College Station, Texas, with her husband and their six cats. She serves as a faculty member at Vermont College of Fine Arts in their MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program.

Website  ║  Twitter ║ Facebook ║ Instagram Blog  ║ Goodreads  
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Learn more by visiting the Angel Thieves Pinterest Boards!

Angel Thieves


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Angel Thieves by Kathi Appelt is a magical YA novel with lyrical prose and multiple POV that will enchant you. #LoneStarLit #magicalrealism #YoungAdult #TexasAuthor

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