The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts:
Being an Absolutely Accurate Autobiographical Account of My Follies, Fortunes, & Fate,
Written by Himself
Written by Avi
Algonquin Young Readers 5/16/2017
320 pages Ages 8—12
“ON THE RUN . . .
“In the seaside town of Melcombe Regis, 1724, Oliver Cromwell Pitts wakes up to find his father missing and his house flooded. He’s alone in his ruined house with no money and no food. Oliver’s father has left a note: he’s gone to London, where Oliver’s sister, Charity, may be in trouble.
“While exploring in the storm’s aftermath of a storm, Oliver discovers a shipwreck on the beach. Removing anything from a wreck is a hanging offense, but Oliver finds money that could save him, and he can’t resist the temptation to take it. His crime soon discovered, Oliver is thrown into the poorhouse, whose cruel master decides to make an example of him. When Oliver manages to escape, he flees, following the trail of his father and sister. The journey is full of thieves, adventurers, and treachery—and London might be the most dangerous place of all.
“In the tradition of his Newbery Honor book The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Avi mixes high adventure and page-turning, action-packed storytelling with an unforgettable cast of highwaymen, pickpockets, and villainous criminal masterminds.” [INSIDE JACKET]
12-year-old Oliver Cromwell Pitts wakes up to a strange sensation. Everything he owns is shaking, and then . . . cold seawater dumps onto his head from a large gap suddenly appearing in the ceiling. Yelling for his father, Oliver hears only water rushing into the house. His father, Mr. Gabriel Pitts, is nowhere to be found. He did leave a note, which said, as far as Oliver could decipher, his father had gone to London to rescue Oliver’s sister, Charity, from some sort of trouble. Oliver, left alone without food or money, now has no ceiling or floor to call his own.
A beached ship gives Oliver a small amount of money, keeping him out of the poorhouse—if he is willing to take the chance of going to jail for robbing a wrecked ship. The penalty is death in this seaside town. Oliver takes the risk. The ship, stripped of its metals, is but a shell of its former glory. Oliver finds a cloth packet containing thirty shillings. He takes twenty-three, leaving seven for the next person who finds it.
Oliver follows his father’s trail to London, hoping to find him and his sister. Along the way, he becomes involved with notorious criminals. One mishap after another keeps Oliver fighting for his life while trying to get away from his current situation. Charity left for London to leave the situations her father put her in at home—mother to Oliver and housekeeper to all (servants being beneath Mr. Pitts). The senior Pitts is a lawyer who prefers gambling, drinking, and his family motto—”People care nothing for suffering. To get on, you must mask your heart with false smiles.” Oliver also lives by this awful motto.
Every chapter ends on a cliffhanger, making turning the page all but a given. Young boys will especially like this romp of a tale. The action is fast-paced and the story keeps you thinking and wondering. If you have never read a book about the London of 200-years ago, The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts is a great way to begin. Some kids may have some trouble with the vocabulary, but Oliver, as narrator, keeps the story moving and interesting. Kids may well gloss over the strange vocabulary they cannot understand through context. Hopefully, they will look up the odd words once the book closes for the night.
The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts is a wonderful story with lots of action and suspense. Being the first of a new series by Newbery Medal winner Avi, only increases the probability the series will continue to keep the reader in suspense, trying to keep one step ahead of Oliver. Adults will enjoy this 18th-century series as much as kids will love it, including girls. If the series continues as the initial book has, it may be a huge award-winner by year’s end.
Do not miss The Unexpected Life of Oliver Pitts, as told by Oliver Pitts.
THE UNEXPECTED LIFE OF OLIVER CROMWELL PITTS: BEING AN ABSOLUTELY ACCURATE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL ACCOUNT OF MY FOLLIES, FORTUNES, & FATE, WRITTEN BY HIMSELF . Text copyright © 2017 by Avi. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Algonquin Young Readers/Workman, New York, NY.
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Copyright © 2017 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts
Written by Avi
Algonquin Young Readers 5/16/2017
Oh, I like this period piece. And, I love Avi’s work. Great review!