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The Boy Who Stepped Through Time

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When Perry steps into a crumbling ruin while on holiday in France, he is not expecting to be transported back 1700 years to Roman times. While he hunts desperately for a way home, he must blend in as a slave – even if it means eating mice for dinner!

Gradually, Perry is caught up in the fascinating world of grand Villa Rubia and a life he could never have imagined. But when he makes a new friend, he thinks he might already know her terrible fate.

Perry is faced with an impossible choice: to find his way home or stay and guard his friend’s life – and risk being trapped in the past forever…

325 pages, Paperback

Published June 1, 2021

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Anna Ciddor

22 books24 followers

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 29 of 29 reviews
Profile Image for Hazel Edwards.
Author 117 books87 followers
November 21, 2021

Latrines, playing 'knuckles', yo yos, slave- boy job of washing smelly feet and stuffed dormouse delicacies to eat: 11 year old Perry copes.

The strength of this Roman times historic time-slip, is the quirky research on games, food and slave lifestyle likely to appeal to male and female 11 year olds plus.

The opening in present day setting of a family on a French holiday with a history- fact- keen mother sets up contemporary clues which are recognised by 'Perry' when he time-slips into Ancient Roman culture.

So many Latin/Roman names, but Ciddor puts them in context of their roles and the 'The Truth Behind the book' and Useful Glossary at the back, will reassure educators that this is easily enjoyed history.

Reclining to eat, using fingers not utensils and scenes of festivals like Saturnalia where slaves momentarily switch roles and are served by their masters for one day are apt examples. The birthday of the daughter of the privileged household , Valentia, enables lots of the food of the period to be described.
(Spoiler) And the tension of whether Perry will be able to protect her past the approaching death date on her gravestone which he saw in present day. Well intentioned Perry is an appealing character who reacts realistically to new 'old' world experiences. Especially too many figs. And Roman toilets.

Experienced historical novelist Anna Ciddor (The Family With the Two Front Doors) and her sister researcher have created a worthwhile story to recommend for students who like to learn about the past, via fiction and well researched fact. The transition from modern day to past is skilfully handled. The challenge for Perry is how to return to now.

Highly recommended.

1 review
June 13, 2021
A very fun read. The story is driven by a loyal depiction of ancient Roman times, but it's done so in a way that isn't a bore - rather, it's illustrated in tiny historical details sprinkled throughout the characters' conversations and interactions. The cities it explores feel like living, breathing characters in themselves.

Aside from the history, the playful characters and plot make it a very enjoyable read.
1 review
June 3, 2021
We're up to chapter five..and i've just bought another copy for my grandsons to have at home.
I love that the author has written a believable adventure interwoven with historical facts, so we're all learning as we read. I love the detail, I love that this is not 'schoolish'. Thanks!
1 review
June 3, 2021
I don’t usually like time travel stories but LOVED this book! Great historical fiction with an enthralling storyline and relatable content. Kids and adult readers will enjoy it. 5 stars for sure!
Profile Image for Robyn Bavati.
Author 5 books37 followers
July 17, 2021
An engaging, thought-provoking work of historical fiction with a touch of magic.

On holiday in France, Perry and his family drive to the grape harvest festival, set among ruins from ancient Roman times. Perry goes exploring alone, inadvertently ‘stepping through time’ to become the slave, Peregrinus. He is befriended by the mischievous Carotus and the master’s daughter Valentia. Much as he enjoys their company, he misses his family and his life, and tries to get back. But when he remembers that he has seen Valentia’s grave and understands that she died soon after her eleventh birthday, he realises he must find a way to avert her fate. It is through sacrificing his own comfort to save her that Perry becomes a truly heroic protagonist.

In this story, the ancient Roman period is brought to life in such rich and vivid detail that the reader learns so much without even trying – how people lived, their customs and festivals, how they dressed, what they ate, and the games children played. But it’s not only history buffs who will enjoy this book. It has humour, adventure and suspense, and the well-drawn characters are both convincing and relatable.

The comparison between life then and now will provide much food for thought for young readers, as will the subtle but important lesson about not judging the past by the present.

Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Alex Crozier.
31 reviews4 followers
March 21, 2021
I read an uncorrected proof and I’m not sure what the etiquette is about reviewing so far in advance of release but I really enjoyed this and want to post something before I forget.

This was the sort of book I would have picked up at a museum gift shop as a kid and fallen in love with. It’s clear that a lot of deep research went into it, which made it an absolute joy to read. The Roman era was brought to life with colour, vibrancy and affection, and the occasional comparisons between how-things-looked-then and how-they-look-now is a great way to equip kids with the tools to interpret artefacts in a modern setting.

There were some minor issues with pacing, and the subplot about Valentia probably could have been brought into the forefront much earlier in the story, but hey. It’s sweet, funny and engaging, a fantastic educational resource, and I imagine I would have adored it back when I was 8.
13 reviews5 followers
June 29, 2021
I've always relished a good history read, which is why I enjoyed Perry's adventures in the Villa Rubia and the town of Arelate so much, even though it was written for my younger self. The story is packed with fascinating historical details about the Roman world, many of them delightfully grungy, including using communal toilets, pressing grapes to make wine, eating snails and calves brains for a treat, and slaves dining on their masters' leftovers. These are deftly woven into a warm story, where characters care for each other in spite of the limitations placed on them by the realities of their time (girl/boy, slave/master, Roman/Gaul). These believable and complex characters are seen through the eyes of a bewildered boy from the future, who is desperate to get home but at the same time falls in love with the world of his Roman friends.
1 review
June 29, 2021
'What was it like to be a kid in Ancient Rome?' This book seems to be dedicated to answering that question. Full of rich historical detail and lots of heart, it's very easy to get lost in this world and its adorable cast of characters. Highly recommended for kids who can't get enough of history!
Profile Image for Penelope.
40 reviews
December 24, 2021
Great historical fiction novel; good way to learn about ancient times in France, at the time of the Roman Empire’s occupation. We really identify with Perry, who is transported back in time to the life of a villa in Southern France (today’s Provence/Midi). We care about him as he becomes friends with Carotus (a fellow slave) and Valentia (daughter of his aristocratic master). This book is an excellent way for Middle Grade Fiction readers (aged 9 - 12) to learn about life in another era. I really enjoyed it!
Profile Image for Julie Haydon.
Author 216 books20 followers
November 25, 2021
When eleven-year-old Perry is mysteriously transported back 1700 years to 4th Century Gaul, he must adapt to life as a household slave. Luckily, he makes two new friends, the cheeky slave Carotus and the noble Valentia. Armed with knowledge from the future, can Perry prevent a tragedy? And will he ever be able to return to his time? Packed with fun facts about Roman life, this is a rollicking read featuring charismatic characters.

In a word: exciting.
Profile Image for Maya Linnell.
Author 4 books120 followers
September 16, 2021
Review from Miss 9 - This story was a great adventure. I learned new things about ancient Rome and Arelate/Arles (Arles is a city on the Rhone River in the Provence region of southern France). Perry describes everything with a great perspective which lets me picture Rome in real life.

The story made me happy and sad. I think everyone would enjoy this wonderful book just like I did. I really recommend this lovely book to every other reader. I would love to see a number two of this awesome read. The Boy Who Stepped Through Time is an amazing book that really stands out on my shelf. I hope others enjoy this great book.

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for an early copy!
Profile Image for Lucas.
1 review
June 25, 2021
Beautiful, exciting, and funny journey back in time to Ancient Rome!
Profile Image for David Ivory.
36 reviews
July 1, 2022
Another book read together with my son Kieran. This was a fun read - very very good research on Mid- Roman Empire culture and manners. And that is the main draw rather than plot or character development.

As an aside - I bought this book at a bookshop when I desperate for a Christmas book for my then 11 year old son. But few of the books were suitable for boys - was so ridiculous that I had to calm myself down and take a deep breath. In a world where we need more boys and girls to read for a book buyer to only focus on books for girls is unacceptable. I left without comment though - I’d only come across as an angry white male.

I guess this book got through the filter because it has a good mix of boy and girl protagonists and … well let’s leave it at that… no - I’ll go there…. The cover is pink. LOL. My boy liked it well enough - his rating as usual.

Read this one to your tween son or daughter and learn some Roman culture along the way.

But a plea - more books for tween boys please.
Profile Image for Katherine.
91 reviews
June 6, 2021
Lots of really fantastic information about ancient Rome which the author brings to life in an engaging story. Any child interested in historical fiction will enjoy this book.
36 reviews
October 25, 2021
Very good junior fiction. Characters you end up caring about, and historical accuracy that brings it all to life.
Profile Image for Gretchen Bernet-Ward.
333 reviews11 followers
February 23, 2022
A brilliant story, well researched and convincingly written, not too scholarly, not too heavy and the historical aspect makes it believable. Young Perry is on holidays with his family, a normal group with the usual family dynamics, when they visit a modern day recreationist Roman Fair. I'm not too convinced about the way Perry time-slipped but he ends up in Villa Rubia in Ancient Roman times. Fortunately he is already 'in costume' and joins a wealthy household as a slave. He makes friends and does what the Romans do, mostly icky, gross and unpalatable things. But there is a nagging secret he must keep and he does his utmost to protect his new friend from harm. Author Anna Ciddor weaves Perry's modern concepts with ancient rituals and succeeds in recreating a window in time. Although I thought the ending was more for older readers sensibilities, overall I think this tale is suitable for a wide range of readers.
Profile Image for Deborah.
403 reviews
February 27, 2022
A great middle-school read. Perry and his family are visiting France, and while at a Roman ruin and Roman festival, Perry is transported back in time to Villa Rubia, where he is thrust into life as a slave to a Roman family.
Lots of historical facts about Roman life make interesting reading , whilst Perry makes friends with a fellow slave, Carotus, and the daughter of the house, Valentia, who may be in danger. Can Perry change the past, and still get back to his family in the future?
Profile Image for Gill James.
Author 74 books31 followers
March 1, 2022
Great story - historical fiction with a time travel element. A very authentic-feeling presentation of Roman times. Above all, a story about friendship.
Profile Image for Ericafh.
76 reviews
September 25, 2022
First of all, the ending was so cute (I would argue it even leaves room for a return to the world!). Second of all, the researcher gave my university class a lecture two weeks ago and I can't believe I didn't put the pieces together until today, (I was This close to screaming on the train when the dots connected) and the author went to school where I work!! (Also my current tutor is mentioned in the acknowledgements lol).

I was recommended this buy another tutor earlier this year, and I am so glad I read it. It was so fun reading this (although it did feel a bit like a sanitised version of history, but like, it's a kids book. Can't really have the kids being beaten at school now can we), especially when I spotted things that I'd learned from the lecture (mainly to do with children and school), and the Roman social history class I'm taking. The world was easily crafted and I felt like Ciddor made Roman Arles and Roman life very accessible for children (and adults!), and the descriptions were rich but not overbearing. I also thought the facts were woven into the story well, and they didn't feel like an information dump.

Perry was a likeable main character and it was fun to follow him. He was definitely the most fleshed out character (though I did love the mum, that's 100% going to be me when I'm older). I think I would have liked a bit more tension or conflict as to how he felt being stuck in such a frankly terrifying situation, as I felt he he sort of got on with life and accepted it a bit too quickly (but again, I know this is a children's book so we can't really have super intense moral dilemmas). I liked how he made mistakes (and still didn't like garum even at the end), but I think it would have been fun to see a little bit more of him telling Carotus and Valentia about the future.

I liked the dynamic between Perry, Carotus and Valentia—especially when they were at the villa, they felt a little like the three musketeers (yes I know there's four, shh)—but I just feel like I was left wanting more from their characters.

This book, despite being 300 odd pages, felt like it moved at breakneck pace, and I think it could have slowed down a little in the last quarter so we could take a little bit of a breather and really amp up the tension with Valentia's "death date". But also mad respect for having such a cracking pace but still creating a vibrant world. I also liked how Perry remembered historical ruins from his time and then that he got to see them in their prime, I suppose. And I loved the little detail with Carotus and the cat painting <3

But yes, I did really enjoy this book and I can't wait to reread through my own copy and annotate the hell out of it <3
Profile Image for Sophia.
50 reviews
January 28, 2022
I thought the idea of this books was great and very educational! I did learn many new things from this book but it was a bit slow and the book was a bit longer than it should of been. I also thought that the ending was a bit rushed and not that interesting, same with how Perry came into Roman Times. I think this book is better for younger ages. My favourite character was Bucco the ginger cat, he just always sounded so cute!
584 reviews90 followers
January 22, 2022
I really wanted to learn more about Rome, so thought this book could be fun. Unfortunately, I felt like it was a bit 'hit you over the head' with it, instead of the facts of the era being really incorporated into the story. It also had a bit of 'and it was all a dream' vibe to it. I certainly learnt about Rome, but it wasn't really fun.
305 reviews
October 7, 2022
Perry, a 12 year old boy who is visiting Roman ruins in France with his family, finds himself transported back in time to Arles, a 4th Roman town in France. A gripping story about an adventure to save a young girl, this story also gives an amazing detailed look into life at that time, the food, clothing, festivals & rituals etc. a great read for middle grade readers.
Profile Image for Ash :).
55 reviews
August 31, 2021
I felt like this book just carries on and the plot/twist happens at the end of the book and the rest is just unnecessary. I just wanted it to get to the point.
Profile Image for Jane.
465 reviews5 followers
January 7, 2022
Time slip adventure set in ancient Roman-ruled France. It was interesting to read about a time that isn't often featured in kid lit. Thin plot compared to historical research.
September 29, 2022
I found 'The Boy Who Stepped Through Time' to be an enjoyable and easy read. It is by no means groundbreaking but it is fun and light and provides some fascinating and 'authentic' facts and tidbits about this period of Roman life that really pleased the inner history-lover in me. So if you're looking for a lighthearted adventure where you learn a bit too then I would highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Annaleise Byrd.
43 reviews
December 14, 2022
Anna Ciddor’s self-described research ‘obsession’, her decades-long list of non-fiction titles, and the help of her sister, Tamara Lewit—a researcher and archaeologist specialising in the Roman Empire—make her perfectly placed to pen this richly detailed and riveting middle grade time-slip tale set in Roman times.

Perry is an eleven-year-old Australian boy holidaying with his family in southern France when he accidentally falls 1700 years through time. He’s mistaken for a newly arrived child slave in a grand country villa surrounded by vineyards. As the realisation sinks in that he’s time travelled, Perry vacillates between longing to go home and wanting to make the most of this one-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Since he can’t do the former, he resolves to do the latter.

Discovering he can now speak and understand Latin, Perry befriends fellow slave Carotus and the villa owner’s daughter, Valentia. He learns to serve the owner’s family at meal times, eat unappetising leftovers, sleep on the floor and use multi-seat latrines. There are moments of joy amongst the hardship; highlights include scenes of grape treading, visiting Constantine’s bathhouse, and the festival of Saturnalia, when slaves switch places with their masters.

But something is weighing heavily on Perry’s mind. Before he fell through time, he visited a museum and saw a coffin inscribed with Valentia’s name and age at death: eleven years, two months and one day. As this day draws closer, Perry is determined to save her life. This leads beautifully into the story’s climax and Perry’s subsequent return to his own time, where only several hours rather than several months have passed. In the final chapter, he revisits the museum that houses Valentia’s coffin to see if it was all worthwhile.

With back matter including a glossary and notes on ‘the truth behind this book’, this is a well written and meticulously researched story packed with interesting facts about life in the Roman Empire. Middle grade readers with an interest in history will find it fascinating… while those who think history is dry or boring may even be converted!

This review was first shared on StoryLinks Australia.
Displaying 1 - 29 of 29 reviews

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