The Time Travelers (Book 1 in the Gideon Trilogy)
New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007
Genre: middle grade fantasy/sci-fi
AR Level: 6.3
Interest level: age 10+
On a forced visit to the English countryside, Peter Schock meets Kate Dyer, and the two find themselves thrown 200 years into the past by a freak accident at her dad’s lab. Now in 1763, Kate and Peter must find the antigravity machine if they hope to return home. Along the way they have a nasty encounter with some highwaymen, get taken in by a kindly family, and have a whole lot of adventures in 18th century England.
The premise of The Time Travelers is very intriguing, and I was drawn in by the rich language. Buckley–Archer does a good job incorporating appropriate period language into the text. She cleverly works the definitions of odd words like “bottom” into the narrative.
The over-all story is well-executed, I think, but it does get bogged down in the middle with too many details and one disastrous encounter after another. Some of the dialogue and descriptions of people and places were superfluous and did nothing to propel the story. Kids looking for an adventure story (which this is, in many respects) may give up in the middle because the story starts to stagnate.
However, when the group of travelers finally reach London, the pace picks up significantly. I was once again interested in the characters and how the various issues would be resolved. The ending was satisfactory in that enough of the loose ends were tied up, and the cliffhanger interesting enough for me to seek out the second book.
There are some mild content issues which might be worth discussing with a young reader. There is a pervasive use of alcohol (not by the two protagonists) that corresponds with the time period as well as the nature of some of the characters. It’s an appropriate characterization device, though. The story also deals with things like hangings, murder, and cruel people.
I do recommend The Time Travelers and will place a copy in my 4th grade classroom, and I’m anxious to read the next book, The Time Thief.