Gideon the Cutpurse
Scriptwriter Linda Buckley-Archer makes a promising debut with Gideon the Cutpurse, the first in a trilogy of young adult time-travel novels. Twelve-year-old Peter Schock, the neglected son of working parents, is packed off to the country, where he meets the Dyer family. Dr. Dyer invites Peter to his workplace for an outing. As Peter and Dr. Dyer’s daughter Kate play with a prototype for an anti-gravity machine, they disappear, sending both families into a panic.
Dazed on a hillside in 1763, the children are soon accosted by an individual known as the “Tar Man.” He steals their “curious contraption” and takes it to London. Realizing they will need the machine to return home, the children convince a kind young traveler, Gideon, to bring them to the city. After battling highwaymen, however, the children discover that Gideon has a price on his head – put there by the Tar Man himself. Unraveling the mystery of Gideon’s past and struggling to save both him and themselves, the children witness life in the 18th century – from as high as the royal palace to as low as Newgate prison.
Although marred in the first few chapters by abrupt changes in points of view, this well-packaged historical moves along at a brisk clip. The complexity of several of the characters – particularly Gideon and the villains – suggests many promising plot developments for the next book in the series. Ages 10 and up.