The Time Travelers – by Linda Buckley-Archer
First off, this book was apparently originally titled Gideon the Cutpurse, so kudos to whoever decided to rename it. Normally, changing the title to appeal to a different audience would bother me and The Time Travelers is kind of generic-sounding, but in this case, I have to agree. How many people are really going to pick up a book called Gideon the Cutpurse? I doubt I would anyway. Marketing issues aside, I think it’s important that the name change shifts some of the focus from the character of Gideon (an 18th century man struggling to reform his lifestyle) to Peter and Kate (two kids from the 21st century who get accidentally transported back in time). The trilogy is already named after Gideon and while he is certainly a central character, this book is targeted at older children and tweens, so the plot should really be centered more on the twelve-year-old protagonists.
Kate’s father is a physicist studying dark matter, and one of his co-workers is experimenting with an anti-gravity machine. An accident with the machine causes Peter and Kate to be sent back in time to the 18th century where they meet Gideon, but not before the anti-gravity machine is stolen by the villainous Tar Man. We follow them through exciting and dangerous encounters with thieves and highwaymen as they make their way to London to find the Tar Man and their only hope of getting home. Their story is interspersed with scenes of what’s happening back in the 21st century, as kids’ parents, the police, and the NASA scientists in charge of the anti-gravity project all try to figure out where the children have gone.
To be honest, the time travel theme alone wins major points with me. The plot is engaging and the friendship and trust that start to grow between Peter and Kate, and between the kids and Gideon are some of the book’s greatest strengths, and I hope that those relationships continue to grow and deepen as the trilogy continues. I also hope that in the next two books, Peter and Kate will play a more active role in their adventures. There’s nothing wrong with adult intervention, but the kids do very little without it in this book, and in several instances they act more as bystanders to the action. At any rate, I look forward to reading the next installment!