The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts

The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts

 
4.5 (2)
 
0.0 (0)
397   0
Write Review
The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts
Author(s)
Age Range
9+
Release Date
May 16, 2017
ISBN
9781616205645
Buy This Book
      
In the seaside town of Melcombe Regis, England, 1724, Oliver Cromwell Pitts wakes to find his father missing and his house flooded by a recent storm. He’s alone in his ruined home with no money and no food. Oliver’s father has left behind a barely legible waterlogged note: he’s gone to London, where Oliver’s sister, Charity, is in trouble. Exploring damage to the town in the storm’s aftermath, Oliver discovers a shipwreck on the beach. Removing anything from a wrecked ship is a hanging offense, but Oliver finds money that could save him, and he can’t resist the temptation to take it. When his crime is discovered, Oliver 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 short, page-turning chapters with a vivid historical setting featuring a cast of highwaymen, pickpockets, and villainous criminal masterminds.

Editor reviews

2 reviews

Overall rating 
 
4.5
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.5  (2)
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A  (0)
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A

A Title for Every Middle Grades Classroom

THE UNEXPECTED LIFE OF OLIVER CROMWELL PITTS by Avi is a wonderful book--as one has come to expect from the author.

The year is 1724 and Oliver Cromwell Pitts, a twelve-year-old boy who looks far younger than his years, wakes up to find his home flooded and his father gone. Oliver’s attempts to find his father and sister in London lead him to be branded a thief and a highwayman, and his adventures along the way make THE UNEXPECTED LIFE a book that is nearly impossible to put down.

Avi’s latest is full of rich history and fascinating characters. The plot is perfectly arranged, the action is well paced, and the characters—both the evil and the good—are interesting and keep you rooting for them or against them.

This is a book that should be a part of every middle grade classroom. The vocabulary, wordplay, and history can be the basis for multiple lesson plans across many subjects, and I suspect every reader will identify with Oliver Cromwell Pitts and his plight at some point. The beauty of THE UNEXPECTED LIFE is Avi’s ability to write for the period in a way that is accessible and believable. Although the vocabulary might present a challenge to some students, it never seems overwhelming, and it’s a great introduction to classics that focus on that time.

Another wonderful aspect of Avi’s latest book is that it’s the first in the series. I became quite attached to Oliver Cromwell Pitts, and I look forward to spending more time with him in book two. However, I have to say that by the end of this book I identified strongly with Oliver’s assessment of his father: “It was hard to know if he was exhausted, appalled, or simply unwilling to acknowledge the world in which he found himself.” THE UNEXPECTED LIFE OF OLIVER PITTS isn’t a sunshiny book. There are (age appropriate) dark moments, and there are really awful people. Oliver’s approach to it all saves the book from complete darkness and despair. After all, a favorite saying of Oliver’s father’s is “"People care nothing for suffering. To get on, you must mask your heart with false smiles." And Oliver is a champion at that.

I highly recommend this book, and my thanks to the publisher and YA Books Central for an ARC of the book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Good Points
A book that can be the basis of many lesson plans

Great characters and a lot of action
Was this review helpful to you? 
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A

Harrowing Historical Adventure


Oliver lives with his father, who is a nasty man and unscrupulous lawyer. His sister, who has been raising Oliver since their mother's death, decides to leave their sea side town and move to London to live with an aunt and uncle. After the family home is destroyed in a flood and his father leaves without telling him, Oliver is sent to an orphanage. He does not appreciate the hard life there and decides to run away to join his sister in London. This does not go well-- he steals money from a shipwreck, but that is soon taken from him by bandits who force him to help them rob stage coaches. He falls in with a man named Hawkes who gets him involved with Jonathan Wild, a notorious criminal. He does eventually find his sister and father, but it is under less than helpful circumstances. All three of them are eventually sentenced to death for stealing, and only his father's bribes to the judge get the children's sentences commuted. Oliver is glad that he will be sent with his sister to America, but soon learns that they are to be separated. Will they be reunited in the second book in the series?

Good Points
Avi has clearly researched writing of this period and does a tremendous job at recreating the pacing and style of novels of this time. Struggling readers might be put off by phrases such as "confounded by such forceful clamors (page 1)", but sophisticated ones will find this easier than reading Stevenson's Treasure Island and even more fun! This would be a great introduction to period literature, since the characters, circumstances, and tropes right true, but the prose is cleaner and more befitting books from the 21st century.

Oliver is a stalwart character who doesn't let criminals, hunger, evil relatives or even a death sentence stop his undaunted desire to better his lot. He is sympathetic to his father... to a point. He realizes that the man has had challenges, but eventually calls him to task for his bad parenting. I do like one phrase that is sort of the family motto-- "People care nothing for suffering. To get on, you must mask your heart with false smiles." Oliver has very much taken this to heart, and it serves him well.

Readers searching for authetic historical novels like Updale's Montmorency, Lee's A Spy in the House, or Bradbury's Wrapped, will do well to pick up The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts or any number of Avi's own books that deal with this period of history.
Was this review helpful to you? 

User reviews

There are no user reviews for this listing.
Already have an account? or Create an account
Powered by JReviews

FEATURED GIVEAWAYS

Latest Book Listings Added

Dear Martin
ustyce McAllister is top of his class and set for...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Come Home, Angus
Angus woke up mad and knew today was not his...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Rulers of the Playground
A stunning picture book about sharing, friendship, and kindness in...
 
4.5
 
0.0 (0)
June Sparrow and the Million Dollar Penny
June Sparrow and her best friend—a miniature pig named Indigo...
 
3.5
 
0.0 (0)
Story Sparks:  Finding Your Best Story Ideas & Turning Them into Compelling Fiction
Find rock-solid story ideas before you start writing ...
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
The Girl in the Tower
A remarkable young woman blazes her own trail, from the...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Coming Up For Air
Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework....
 
4.3
 
0.0 (0)
Landscape with Invisible Hand
National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson returns to future...
 
4.3
 
0.0 (0)
26091228.jpg
Follow-up to the New York Times bestselling novel, Forget Tomorrow!...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Follow Me (Amateurs #2)
It was the perfect night for a party. That is,...
 
3.7
 
0.0 (0)
The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding
Prosper is the only unexceptional Redding in his old...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Fireblood
Against all odds, Ruby has defeated the villainous Frost...
 
3.7
 
0.0 (0)
Nothing
From Annie Barrows, the acclaimed #1 New York Times–bestselling...
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
Welcome Home
Welcome Home collects a number of adoption-themed fictional short...
 
3.7
 
0.0 (0)
Even the Darkest Stars
The first in a sweeping and action-packed debut fantasy...
 
3.0
 
0.0 (0)
Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper #2)
In this hotly anticipated sequel to the haunting #1...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)

Latest Member Reviews

Dear Martin
 
5.0
"Justyce is at the top of his class, captain of the debate team, and on track to attend a prestigious..."
A Court of Wings and Ruin
 
5.0
"Alright warning time. As with most books that I read, this has been labeled problematic. Though this one is completely..."
Wintersong
 
1.0
"This is going to be more like a rant/review than just a review. I am honestly proud that I finished..."
Enshadowed (Nevermore #2)
 
5.0
"First off... that freaking cliffhanger!? I can't even... I could not imagine having read this the year it came out..."
Nevermore (Nevermore #1)
 
4.7
" It's great! What I love the most is how dark and gritty the world felt. It was so cool..."
House of Night: Hunted
 
3.3
"So the Nerd Herd is now underground and hiding away from Kalona. Aphrodite and Stevie-Rae have imprinted, Stark is an..."
House of Night: Untamed
 
3.3
"So this one picks up right where the other left off and don't worry if you haven't read the others..."
House of Night: Chosen
 
3.3
"Zoey now knows that her old mentor is not what she claims to be. She's hiding something and doing things..."
House of Night: Betrayed
 
3.3
"This one picks up not far where Marked left off. Zoey is now in charge of the Daughters of Darkness...."
Roar (Stormheart #1)
 
N/A
"DNF PAGE 133 - I hate DNFing a book. I hardly ever do it. I personally feel like I'm giving..."
Truthers
 
3.3
"So, I've said before that for some reason I love conspiracy theories. Do I believe any of them? No. I..."
Mask of Shadows
 
3.3
"Okay I loved the premise of this book and I love the fact that it features a Genderfluid MC but..."
Hunted
 
3.7
"What I love most about this book is the setting. Medieval Russia, like hell yeah sign me up! I love..."
The Hanging Girl
 
4.0
"The Hanging Girl was a quick, suspenseful read. Author Eileen Cook has a great writing style. The story picked up..."
Princess Breeze
 
4.3
"This is the second book in a very adorable, fun series. This story starts with Breeze Brannigan's end of the..."
Coming Up For Air
 
4.3
"Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat. All of Maggie’s focus and free time..."
Landscape with Invisible Hand
 
4.3
"Aliens have invaded Earth and promise to share their technology. Of course most people are very excited about the idea..."
Invictus
 
4.7
"Time-travelling thieves. Who doesn’t want to read about that? Invictus follows Farway Gaius McCarthy, a wannabe time-traveller who was..."
Follow Me (Amateurs #2)
 
3.7
"The gang's (Seneca, Maddox, Aerin, and Madison) back again in "Follow Me" by Sara Shepard, author of the "Pretty Little..."
Even the Darkest Stars
 
3.0
"Kamzin dreams of being an explorer, climbing mountains, and finding adventures. When a twist of fate allows her to journey..."