Caleb's blinders are off. The small group of orphans who were also "adopted" by Uncle used to feel like family, but the competition to be the top time snatcher and the punishment for failure has gotten fierce. Time traveling to steal valuable objects can be a thrill, but with bully Frank trying to steal his snatches, his partner Abbie falling for Frank's slimy charms, and Uncle's plans to kidnap innocent kids ...
Caleb's blinders are off. The small group of orphans who were also "adopted" by Uncle used to feel like family, but the competition to be the top time snatcher and the punishment for failure has gotten fierce. Time traveling to steal valuable objects can be a thrill, but with bully Frank trying to steal his snatches, his partner Abbie falling for Frank's slimy charms, and Uncle's plans to kidnap innocent kids to grow his business, Caleb starts thinking about getting out. But Uncle's reach extends to any country in any time period, and runaways get the harshest punishment of all.
Caleb can steal just about anything from the past, but can he steal a family for the future?
Gr 5–8—Caleb has been a time snatcher for almost as long as he can remember. Working for Timeless Treasures, the 13-year-old and his snatch partner, Abbie (his oldest friend and potential girlfriend material), pilfer priceless historical artifacts for the company's rich clients. But with the time snatchers' abusive guardian, "Uncle," growing more volatile by the day, Caleb longs for the normalcy of a loving family. One breathless escape after another keeps the first half of the book interesting, but the plot thins out noticeably once the boy jeopardizes everything to save Zach (a five-year-old with an irritating habit of calling Caleb "Caylid") during a crucial mission. His rationale for helping the younger boy is hazy from the start, and his attitude toward Zach is far too adult to be believed. Additionally, the confusing ending leaves far too many questions unanswered. Fans of the "39 Clues" series (Scholastic) may enjoy the action sequences, but the uneven plotting will turn off reluctant readers.—Sam Bloom, Groesbeck Branch Library, Cincinnati, OH
In this exciting first novel from picture-book creator Ungar (Even Higher), 13-year-old Caleb has spent most of his life with Uncle, a cruel Fagin-like thief master who has perfected time travel and sends his child thieves into the past to steal historical treasures. Caleb longs for the stability of a normal life, and aided by his partner, Abbie, and Phoebe, an eccentric humanoid computer program, he sets out to escape from Uncle’s control. Making life harder for Caleb is Frank, another time thief who equals Uncle in maliciousness. Ungar keeps his tale moving with frequent jumps into the past, does a good job of portraying a variety of historical time periods, and comes up with some unusual “snatches” for the young thieves (the first photograph, the first Frisbee). The story is built around the adventure of time travel rather than the mechanics of it—traditionalists may take issue with the ease with which the characters maneuver through time and the lack of temporal ramifications to the thieves’ ransacking of the past. Casual readers, though, should find it plenty entertaining. Ages 10–up. Agents: Josh Adams and Quinlan Lee, Adams Literary. (Mar.)
- Ellen Welty
Caleb is one of a group of children employed by the Faginesque ?Uncle' to travel back in time and steal unique treasures for Uncle to sell to wealthy clients. The band of thieves is paired up in teams to conduct the snatches. Caleb's snatch partner is Abbie. Everything is going along well until one of the other snatchers starts poaching Caleb's assignments and flirting with Abbie. Moreover, Uncle has become more capricious and demanding and Caleb bears the scars of what happens when Uncle has problems with one of the snatchers. While he struggles against Uncle and the bully Frank, he starts feeling like there must be more to life than time travel and theft. When Uncle announces plans to build up his team of snatchers by kidnapping children from various times in history as new recruits and then puts Frank in charge of the first phase of the project, Caleb knows he has to escape. Escaping from Uncle has never been successfully accomplished, however, and Caleb doesn't know whom to trust anymore. The plot is fairly complicated and up until Caleb decides to rescue one of the kidnapped children, the action carries readers over the more convoluted parts of the plot. After Caleb's decision, however, the action becomes a little slower and the story harder to follow. Fans of the "Artemis Fowl" series should enjoy the book, however.
A promising premise--mad scientist recruits children to steal treasures from humanity's past--isn't enough to carry a contrivance-ridden plot, poor characterization and a near-total lack of internal logic. Dispatched by a cruel, vicious quantum physicist named "Uncle," Caleb spends his days traveling to past eras to fetch collectibles, from an ancient Chinese vase to the first Frisbee, for sale to nebulous clients in the 2060s. Ungar never bothers to explain such details as why such thefts don't radically change the past or where the copies of artifacts that Caleb and his fellow thieves leave in place of the originals come from. He also casts his protagonist as Uncle's most successful agent but has him either fail completely or require significant help from allies every time. The author also abandons a set time limit on trips to the past and other internal rules when convenient, adds magical elements such as a pill that wipes only memories necessary to the plot and, for romance, forcibly hooks up his rude, sullen, naïve, inarticulate, jealous and often unwashed teen with Abbie, a beautiful, smarter and far more competent young agent. This mess falls flat even if read as a sendup. (Science fiction. 11-13)