Peter’s mad at his dad. Kate’s annoyed that she has to spend part of her weekend with Peter, but she wants to show off, so she has her dad take the two of them to his laboratory to look at Nifty Science Machines. An accident happens, and off they are whisked to 1769. There, they are unusually bad at resisting the time-traveler’s urge to talk about the future, meet some amazingly kind and generous people, and, of course, meet a few villains.

It lost points early on for improper description of the effects of a Van de Graaf generator. And even if one ignores the bad science – and I have a problem doing that – it just never rises above being an okay book. While it’s purportedly about Peter and Kate, Kate really falls to the background, and it’s not just because eighteenth century skirts make it hard to chase highwaymen and the like. In many small ways, I felt that gender stereotypes were being reinforced – girls cry easily, have weak stomachs, and are closer to anything emotional/spiritual/metaphysical. Kate expresses frustration about her skirts and about Peter’s thoughtlessness when he doesn’t question eighteenth-century gender roles, but the smaller, more insidious things slip frustratingly past.

Gideon the Cutpurse