Original/UK Title: Gideon the Cutpurse
American Title: The Time Travelers
Author: Linda Buckley-Archer
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2006
Genre: Young adult fantasy/science fiction
Gideon the Cutpurse is the first in the The Gideon Trilogy, sometimes called The Enlightenment of Peter Schock series. It is rather popular at the moment, although not major-movie-deal popular. For the most part it is a rather standard pseudo-science fiction time travelling story, written at the reading level that would have gotten it placed in the children's section in my youth, being intended for children of perhaps 10-14.
The story centers around two modern-day children, Peter Schock and Kate Dyer, who are sent backwards in time due to a freak science-lab mishap. They are taken under the wing of a quite pleasant and personable cutpurse, who has seen the errors of his ways and means to lead a blameless life henceforth. The story alternates between the present day, where the children's parents, police, and an elite team of theoretical physicists are searching for them, and 1763, where the kids are having a number of somewhat unlikely adventures.
The story is comparatively dramatic for a children's book, with thieves and murderers and children stranded centuries from home. It does not, however, fall into the trap of thinking that children need to have a constant soap opera of escalating angst to remain entertained. The descriptions of 18th century life and customs are vivid and engaging, and and if the characters are a bit trite, at least they are not boring.
This is an okay book, but I doubt that it is destined to be a classic. For the most part the story is well-written and engaging, but every so often a confusing paragraph will appear and derail the reader. The author seems to have a clear idea in her head, but has trouble communicating what she means to the reader -- not a good thing in any case, but particularly vexing in a children's book. This is also a pretty good historical novel, with a good description of life in the 1700s and a smattering of historical curiosities. Because of this it is popular in the American school system as a particularly 'educational' piece of fiction. It is not quite as well-researched as I would like, and a few folk legends are presented as truth, but the few inaccuracies are forgivable -- particularly in a children's fiction book.
The other books in the series are The Time Thief and The Time Quake.
The Time Travelers is available on Google books. (It is also available under the title
Cideon the Cutpurse, which tells you something about Google Books.)