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The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts: Being an Absolutely Accurate Autobiographical Account of My Follies, Fortune, and Fate

The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts

Algo­nquin Young Read­ers, 2017

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audio book nar­rat­ed by 
James Langton

Don’t miss the sequel!
if you liked this book, try:
alphabetical book list

What’s this book about?

High adven­ture from a mas­ter sto­ry­teller about one boy’s attempt to fend for him­self among cru­el orphan mas­ters, cor­rupt mag­is­trates, and con­niv­ing thieves.

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.


Story Behind the Story

Jonathan Wild (1685–1725) was England’s most noto­ri­ous crook. Daniel Defoe (Robin­son Cru­soe) wrote about him, as did Hen­ry Field­ing (Tom Jones). It has been sug­gest­ed that Dick­ens’ char­ac­ter, Fagan, from Oliv­er Twist is based on him. Conan Doyle’s Sher­lock Holmes’ arch rival, Mori­ar­ty, is also said to be mod­eled on him.

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“With dry wit and strong Dick­en­sian fla­vor, this first install­ment in Avi’s Oliv­er Cromwell Pitts saga has an 18th cen­tu­ry British boy find­ing mis­for­tune every­where he turns…..[plot summary]….Every cliffhang­er-end­ing will leave read­ers on the edge of their seats, won­der­ing how Oliv­er will man­age to sur­vive his lat­est dilem­ma. Brim­ming with fast-paced action, evoca­tive set­tings, and vil­lains, this book reveals yet anoth­er side of Avi’s tal­ent.” (Pub­lish­ers Week­ly, starred review)

“An inge­nious­ly plot­ted Dick­en­sian sto­ry filled with sus­pense, sur­pris­es, and ulti­mate­ly sat­is­fac­tion. It reminds us, who may have for­got­ten, why read­ing is such high enter­tain­ment and plea­sure.” (Book­list, starred review)

“Riveting…This first in a new series will cap­ture the hearts and minds of read­ers and his­to­ry buffs alike … Avi’s exam­i­na­tion of the plight of the des­per­ate­ly poor is wor­thy of Dick­ens. Impos­si­ble to put down.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

“Avi’s abil­i­ty to write com­pelling his­tor­i­cal fic­tion is evi­dent here, and read­ers will want to stay tuned for the next install­ment.” (School Library Jour­nal)

“An involv­ing, twisty mys­tery, ground­ed by the pal­pa­ble emo­tion­al threat of Pete’s father being tak­en away. An accom­plished his­tor­i­cal mys­tery by one of kid lit’s most reli­able crafts­peo­ple.” (Book­list)

“I thought this book was so cap­ti­vat­ing, I read it all in one sit­ting!!!” (Grace Ann, age 10, Kids Book­Buzz)

“This book, by New­bery Medal win­ner Avi, may be aimed for 8- to 12-year-olds, but real­ly it’s for all ages. This fast-mov­ing sto­ry will remind you why you fell in love with read­ing as a kid, and is sure to kin­dle a love of read­ing for today’s young­sters who read it. Rec­om­mend­ed.” (His­tor­i­cal Nov­el Soci­ety)

“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.” (YA Books Cen­tral)

“I love the way Avi builds momen­tum. Once you start read­ing this book, there’s no stop­ping. It’s com­plete­ly engag­ing. As the read­er, you watch help­less­ly as Oliv­er gets sucked deep­er and deep­er into his life of crime. I loved how the author used a “voice” that felt real­is­tic to the time peri­od, yet still high­ly read­able and engag­ing. The char­ac­ters feel true to life—like they could have been real peo­ple. My one com­plaint is that I have to wait so long for the next book! This book is def­i­nite­ly going on my “to read again” shelf. I’m also pass­ing it along to my daugh­ter. She’ll love it. This is a his­tor­i­cal fic­tion nov­el set in Eng­land. It will appeal to kids ages 8–12 who enjoy adven­ture, thieves, and unex­pect­ed plot twists.” (Batch of Books)

buy the book 
Don’t miss the sequel!
if you liked this book, try:
alphabetical book list