Author: Linda Buckley-Archer
Genre: Young Adult/Science Fiction
Edition/Pages: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, June 2006/404 pages
Short & Sweet Synopsis: When two British children get sent back to 1763, they must learn to survive in the 18ᵗʰ century and deal with the various friends & foes which they meet and make there.
He is a bad man. But that much you will have worked out for yourselves. Everyone who knows him fears him, and for good reason. He is the henchman of…a powerful man. If someone needs to be found he will find them. And when he does, just as a cat with a mouse, it is his habit to play with them a little…and he is persistent. By heaven, he is persistent. Once set on something, he never gives up.
Such is how our protagonist describes the Tar Man, the disfigured adversary in our story. A work geared toward young adults, the genre of this novel falls somewhere between sci-fi and historical fiction. After having yet another fight with his father, 12 year old Peter Schock finds himself stuck for the day with Kate Dyer, the daughter of a cosmologist. During a quick stop at her father’s laboratory, the unlikely duo get sucked into an antigravity machine and transported back to 1763. Gideon the Cutpurse recounts the first part of the children’s 18ᵗʰ century adventures, and the various colorful acquaintances they make whilst on their journey to find their way back into the 21ˢᵗ century…
Kids book? Yes. Worth reading? Also yes.
Since it is YA fiction, this is by no means a difficult book to read, but the plot is captivating and the characters intriguing enough to make it well worth it to put that adult book back on the library bookshelf and pick this one up instead. It also might be a nice change of pace for your 10 or 11-year old – it should be entertaining enough to keep them paying attention, and at the same time manages to throw in some 18ᵗʰ century facts that might come in handy in their history class. As it turns out, that is actually how I stumbled across this book: my baby brother was reading it, and it looked interesting enough for me to give the thing a shot myself. Now needless to say, it is somewhat fictionalized, but it also portrays the century accurately and realistically, lending the book an authenticity for those who have also done some non-fiction reading on the period.
A Book Within a Book
Another wonderfully entertaining tidbit is the excerpts from the supposed unpublished novel “The Life and Times of Gideon Seymour, Cutpurse and Gentleman, 1792”. They are scattered at the beginning of chapters throughout the book, written in period speak, as though Gideon really existed, and wrote a never published account of his meeting and ensuing adventures with the 21ˢᵗ century time-traveling children Peter and Kate. Not a major part of the book, but it’s the little details like that which make it – as some of its young fans might say – so cool.
Simply put, this is an excellent book. It drew me in from chapter one, but by the end of the book I literally stayed up half the night to find out what would happen, and the other two books in the trilogy (US: The Time Quake Trilogy, UK: The Gideon Trilogy) don’t disappoint. It’s not something that you have to rush out and start reading right this second, but it’s definitely worth adding to your list. And if you have kids (aged around, say, 10-13), let them borrow it. They might just love it too. Need a second opinion? I’ll give you a third and fourth as well:
From Coriander Dreams: One cannot help but be impressed by the great detail and nuances that the author reveals about the year 1763: the smells, the language, terminology, the food (not so pleasant for two modern-day kids). More than that, she has done remarkable research in portraying what servitude and social class really meant to these people—how being in debt to someone for your life can honestly bind you financially, emotionally, morally, and even legally.
From Literary Legends Quests & Odysseys: Buckley-Archer has done a marvelous job of creating a historical fiction that has action, adventure, science fiction and a little bit of realistic fiction thrown in to boot.
From Poetic Librarian: The characters were well drawn and the setting was vivid; I felt as if I had been transported back in time.
If you liked this, check out my review of book 2 of The Time Quake Trilogy, The Time Thief (UK: The Tar Man).