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The End of the World and Beyond

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Member Reviews

I thought this was very well done. A perfect way for a younger child to learn history. The story was engaging and the characters were dynamic.
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I would recommend reading the first book, The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts before reading the sequel. I could not put this book down! Avi is a great author.
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"Life, it is commonly said, is full of possibilities. Let it also be acknowledged: life is also full of impossibilities."

Sometimes books find their way into our lives at just the right moments. This series is one of those experiences, and I am delighted they found me!

Oliver Cromwell Pitts is a normal 12-year old boy, living in 18th century England. The morning we meet him, he is woken during a freak storm that rips his roof off and floods his house. More distressing, his father is nowhere to be found and the note he left is illegible from the water. Forced to attempt to find answers, Oliver finds himself landing in more precarious situations as each decision leads to more disastrous results than the last.

This takes us to the sequel, The End Of The World And Beyond. Here, we are once again with Oliver as he begins the next seven years of his life as an indentured servant. When he is purchased by a cruel master, the unexpected becomes unbearable. Befriending the only other slave on the plantation, the two boys try to escape the intolerable. Surviving the plantation with their lives, they find themselves in a swamp full of deadly creatures, being pursued by even deadlier men. Will he ever make his way back to his family?

For books targeting Middle School readers, I was incredibly pleased by how much I enjoyed reading these. The subject matter is handled brilliantly, but parents and teachers should be familiar with these books, as the brutality of the time period is not glossed over. Avi raises difficult questions and presents an accurate portrayal of history, but does so in a way that isn’t grotesque, glorifying, or frivolous. In fact, I think this series gives younger readers the chance to experience history while enjoying the adventure of the story, a feat that isn’t easy to accomplish.

The writing has a very old-English feel to it, but rather than make it cumbersome or unapproachable, instead it gives the entire narration a musical feel. This lyrical rhythm makes it easy to read, and, I suspect, even more delightful to read aloud. This style also makes the books feel like classics. Not in the sense of becoming an instant classic, but more, they actually feel as if they were written in the 18th century. It will challenge middle grade readers to expand their vocabulary, but not so much that it’s difficult to read on their own.

Each chapter has fun headings, which serve to let the reader stay on track with the plot, and what to expect. I really loved how these were so fluidly woven in, so much that they became part of the writing. The chapters are short and pack a punch, with action propelling Oliver forward at a continuous pace. Even though this series is targeting younger readers, there are numerous profound statements and lessons learned, again, making this a series with an incredibly wide appeal for readers of all ages.

The language, the descriptions, even the style in which the story is written, all lends itself to opening a young mind to the curiosity of learning more. This is a story designed to help a child learn through the enjoyment of fiction, but it’s also written so that an adult can also enjoy and appreciate not just the world, but the story as well. This is a series I think parents, and teachers, will enjoy sharing with their children.

Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for including me on this blog tour, and sending me a review copy of the first two books! Both books are available now.
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This story is about Oliver, who starts the story on board a ship from London headed to America.  Twelve year old Oliver has been convicted of stealing money from a lady and given the choice to hang or to go to America and serve 7 years as an indentured servant.  Oliver's dad has also been convicted along with his older sister who raised him because his mother died in childbirth.  Oliver has a miserable trip over and then is purchased by a horrible man.  It's an interesting enough story and certainly a part of history we aren't accustomed to hearing about.  However, it doesn't feel like it's such an interesting story that anyone in my elementary library would want to read it.
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Very much enjoyed this book.  I would almost categorize it as YA rather than middle grades.  Plan to read the first book in the series now.  I plan to recommend this to my students as an absorbing read.  The best way to really get a feel for history is through historical fiction.  This book brings the world of the 1700's and some of the not so pleasant aspects to life through Oliver's adventures.
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I haven't read very many Middle Grade novels so when I got a chance to read this one I was excited! I love historical fiction so this was a unique read for me  because I got a mix of historical fiction with middle grade! 

At times I forgot that it was a middle grade instead of an adult historical fiction which threw me off a little and when I started reading it I had totally forgotten it was a second book, but it didn't affect my reading at all. I didn't feel like I was missing anything throughout the story and Avi did a wonderful job of filling you in on the pieces. 

This novel introduces young readers to many important themes through the creation of a friendship between two unlikely people who set off on a journey to freedom. Although they each have an end goal they've learned that in order to get to where they both want to go they'll need to help each other! 

The writing is so well done and given Avi's writing history it totally makes sense. I learned so much while reading this and it made my heart happy to know that younger people who will read it will get to learn about history through story telling. It was very well done and I definitely plan on reading more of Avi's books in the future.
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When I was young history texts were killingly dry recitation of “facts” such as “The United States of America never started a war,” and then going on to kings and battles, lists of trade goods and their percentage of gross national product, and finally lists of presidents and prime ministers. Meanwhile in science we were tested on undisputed “facts” such as there being only sixteen brain chemicals (by college I believe it was twenty-four), people do not dream in color, and dogs have no emotions. Uranus was not a planet, was a planet. You get the idea.

These days, with fake news spewing most from those who howl the loudest about everyone else’s fake news, facts have become unreliable. Their entertainment is debatable. Meanwhile, fictional history has become more sophisticated than ever before—which is nice as for a great many people, this is all the sense of history they are ever likely to get.

I want to make it clear that I’m not turning up my nose at people getting their history from fiction. That’s certainly how I first got interested in history: by reading historical novels for kids. The first one that forever lured me in was Mara, Daughter of the Nile, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, read midway through gradeschool. When I discovered Geoffrey Trease’s delightful historical adventures (in which the girls actually got to adventure, too) and Rosemary Sutcliff’s more serious, and detailed, novels, there was no going back.

In later years, when I taught history to fifth graders, I discovered all the details of little discursions I sometimes offered about what life was like for kids in this or that station of life during such-and-such a time made it wholesale onto my tests, even if dates of battles and kings’ lives didn’t.

So it’s mostly in moods of appreciation and anticipation that I approach historical fiction. I’ve now read enough history to recognize when facts are fudged, if downright missing. The effect can be distracting, if downright disappointing—but such is not the case with Avi’s new historical novel, The End of the World and Beyond—which it turns out is a sequel to an earlier novel, The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts.

I’m certain the earlier novel goes more deeply into the eponymous Oliver’s family life. This novel stands alone; there is a little of Oliver’s family, enough to provide his motivation to find them, but as he is separated from them at the start and has to make his way alone, the novel stands satisfactorily on its own.

We learn at the outset that twelve-year-old Oliver, desperate to survive, stole some money from a wrecked ship. The penalty is hanging or being shipped to America for a seven year stint as an indentured servant. He is given the latter sentence, and shortly thereafter we find him aboard a ship, shackled to his fellow prisoners. Unlike many, he manages to survive scant, rotten food, filthy conditions, and terrifying storms as they cross the Atlantic.

His life only get worse: no one buys his bond, so he’s sent to jail. Eventually he’s bought by the psychopathic, murdering miser Fitzhugh, who seems to have murdered his last bondage servant on a whim. As Oliver endures beatings to remind him of his place, and works as hard as a grown man on Fitzhugh’s tobacco far, he befriends an African boy, Bara. The two become fast friends with the same powerful goal: to escape Fitzhugh before they wind up dead, because nobody else in the world is going to look after them.

It’s a riveting account, horrifically true to accounts of the lives of more unfortunate bond servants of the time. The prose an accessible pastiche, blending modern language with period cadences and a sprinkling of eighteenth-century vocabulary, enough not to overwhelm the student who has yet to be exposed to older styles of writing. Oliver and Bara are appealing, complex, and the pacing races along--an achievement considering the veneer of stately eighteenth century cadences.

This is exactly the kind of novel that can draw readers into a sense of history, and spark their interest in exploring further.
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Disclaimer: I received this book from Algonquin Young Readers. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Rating: 4/5

Publication Date: January 29, 2019

Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction

Recommended Age: 12+ (themes of racism in a historical context, some violence, and hope)

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Pages: 304

Amazon Link

Synopsis: Convicted of thievery and transported from England to America, Oliver Cromwell Pitts, shackled to his fellow prisoners, endures inedible food, filthy conditions, and deadly storms on his voyage across the Atlantic. But the hazardous shipboard journey is nothing compared to the peril that waits for him on the colonial shores.

In Annapolis, Oliver’s indentured servitude is purchased by the foul, miserly Fitzhugh, who may have murdered another servant. On Fitzhugh’s isolated tobacco farm, Oliver’s only companion is an enslaved boy named Bara. Oliver and Bara become fast friends with one powerful goal: to escape Fitzhugh. Oliver hopes he can find his sister, Charity, brought somewhere in the colonies on a different ship. Bara dreams of reaching a community of free black people in the cypress swamp who may help him gain his liberty. But first the boys must flee Fitzhugh’s plantation and outrun their brutal pursuer and the dangers that lurk in the swamp.

Review: So I haven’t read the other book about Oliver Cromwell Pitts, and I think that while the other book could have helped, but the book read excellently as a stand alone. The events were explained and the book doesn’t depend on previous knowledge to know what all is going on. The book is well written and the plot moves along as a good pace. The book isn’t too fast or slow and it takes care to make sure sensitive topics are explained well in my opinion.

However, the book ended very abruptly and didn’t fit into the rest of the book. I think the book could have better wrote out and an ending better teased out.

Verdict: A well written book for middle graders learning colonial time periods.
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I've enjoyed Avi's books for years, and I was excited to find this new series. I haven't read any of Avi's books in a while now, and I still couldn't wait to read it. I'll admit though that when I started reading this series I struggled a bit to get used to the language style and the monotone used by the narrator. 

I did enjoy the story and history thrown in, but I'm not sure children would enjoy the slower pace this story takes. I struggled with this in both books, and since this one does a pretty detailed recap, they don't have to be read in order, so if a reader wasn't sure they wanted to read both, and this one sounded more interesting, it is possible to read them out-of-order.
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To find out why a twelve-year-old boy finds himself in chains on a convict boat, exiled from his home in England and traveling to the strange new continent of America, one needs to read The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts that I reviewed on this blog on June 2, 2017. However, it is not necessary to know that story to appreciate the difficulties that Oliver experiences in The End of the World and Beyond. A longtime fan of the author Avi who wrote both, I am indebted to Algonquin publishers and Net Galley for advance reading copies for both books. Avi continues in the style and intensity of Charles Dickens – also one of my favorite authors – for this new historical novel. 

Trouble does not let up for Oliver from the minute he is shackled to other prisoners in filthy conditions on the voyage nor through his sale to a cruel tobacco farmer who also owns a black slave named Bara. Early on he is beaten by his new master just to prove what is in store for any act of perceived disobedience. Loneliness exceeds even the unbearable conditions of his life until he slowly makes a connection with Bara. A small glimmer of hope that he may find his sister in the new land is enhanced when Bara brings word that a notice has been posted of a “Charity” in a city called Philadelphia who is looking for her brother.

Fleeing the master with Bara toward a community of free black people leads through the dangerous swamp and across streams for this non-swimmer. The book keeps the reader enticed to read just one more chapter with hopes that Oliver’s life has to get better. As always, Avi has done his historical research and noted it in the interesting author’s note at the end.

I recommend reading both books in order, but either is a treasure read alone.
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This book, the sequel to The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts, begins with Oliver’s journey on a prisoner ship that is taking him from England to America where he is being sent to serve time for his crimes. He and his fellow prisoners must endure filthy conditions and food that is barely tolerable while being subjected to weather and storms that make for a very hazardous journey across the ocean. 

When Oliver finally arrives in America he is sold to an elderly and miserly man named Fitzhugh. He is then taken to Fitzhugh’s tobacco farm where he is to live and work. Life on the farm is difficult for Oliver because Fitzhugh is a cruel and selfish owner, and Oliver finds his only solace in the friendship of a young black slave named Bara who is also owned by Fitzhugh. 

He and Bara spend their days in the fields where Oliver longs to be free so he can find his sister Charity who was also sent to America as a prisoner on another ship. As they work Bara and Oliver begin to devise an escape plan. But in order to flee, they must find a way to outsmart Fitzhugh who will certainly kill them is they are caught. And they know that their only way of leaving is through the dangerous swamp that lies at the edge of Fitzhugh’s land. 

The book is loaded with action and is full of historical details and of course there is a villain for Oliver to conquer. All of these aspects make it an engaging read for the intended middle age/tween audience. The characters are well drawn and the plot is believable and Avi draws the reader into the book by adding an element of suspense to the story. 

Unfortunately, while the history and the language of the period are made more realistic by Avi’s narrative techniques, he may at the same time lose some of the young readers who don’t fall rather quickly into the story’s writing style. 

On the other hand, anyone who reads the previous book and this sequel will be rewarded with a good story that offers an exciting adventure, and a plethora of historical information. I would highly recommend this book for the same reasons to any adult reader.

This review is written from reading the ebook ARC courtesy of the publishers and NetGalley.
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Book: The End of the World and Beyond
Author: Avi
Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars

I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher,  Algonquin Young Readers, for providing me with this ARC.

This second book in the Oliver Cromwell Pitts series picked right up where the first left off. Oliver is on his way to the colonies to work as an indentured servant. The book throws us right into the action, but I did find it to be slower in some parts and a lot more rushed than the first book. Don’t get me wrong, it was still an exciting read, but I do wish that it had been a little bit longer for us to explore the world a little bit longer.

I really liked the characters and how a lot of the old faces popped up. I also enjoyed the new characters and how they added to the story. I really do hope to see a lot of them in the later books. I did find it kind of odd how everyone from England seemed to end up in the same place. I would had liked to see a bit more of struggle on that end. I mean, it was just perfect timing for everything that happened here and sometimes it really didn’t make any sense. 

I really liked the history involved in the book. My fifth graders are currently studying colonial history and I think this would be a great addition to that unit. It is written to appeal to that age group and I can really see a lot of my kids getting into it. The writing is very simple and engaging that they would just jump right into it. It is teaching them without being really obvious about it. With middle school readers, you do have to kind of sneaky and creative whenever it comes down to getting them excited about reading. 

So, Avi is one of those authors who I am still on the fence about rather or not I like his work. He has a way of making you feel for the characters and being thrown right into the adventure. His books are very smooth and very fun, but it lacks any kind of peril. We always know that the characters are going out and there’s just not that sense of life or death. I know this is for kids, but I think his books would gain a lot more readers if he would just add in that element.   

(Review is already on Goodreads)
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*Those who have not read The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts should read it before this book (and this review) to avoid spoilers.*

Our tragic hero, Oliver, finally makes it to American shores as a slave—shackled to other felons and sold to a gruesome man in order to farm tobacco with another young slave named Bara. The two boys form a bond and decide to escape from slavery into the one place that could make things worse: the swamp. 

I rarely give 5 star ratings because I usually find things wrong with books that grate me enough to lower the rating. I could find no faults in this book. Touching on a not well known subject today, as history is often put on the back burner in many primary schools to serve the better purpose of teaching math and writing, Avi gives his readers a glimpse of the life of transported criminals sold into slavery by the British government. Mind you, these criminals could be convicted of crimes as heinous as assault or as trivial as breaking a window mistakenly. 

I have decided that I can’t decide whether or not I like reading Avi’s writing. I have only ever read a few other authors that can take very simplistic events, such as hoeing rows or fishing, and give his readers the sunburns and blisters right along with his characters. On the one hand, he has the unique ability to make his readers feel exactly what his characters are feeling. On the other hand, he has the unique ability to make his readers feel exactly what his characters are feeling. Unfortunately, the books in this most recent series starring Oliver Cromwell Pitts mostly exude anxiety and fear. 

Ultimately, the two books in this series are ideal for upper elementary schoolers studying Colonial America and the slave trade—including the not oft taught slave trade, that of convicted felons (a very loose term for mostly poor people that those in power found annoying) transported from Europe to America.

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC, for which I give my own opinion and review.
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Oliver Cromwell Pitts is not your ordinary narrator. And this story is unlike any I’ve recently read. This was a tough one to read because I found myself being angry at the treatment of the two boys by the protagonist.

The story is set in the 1700’s in the American colonies. Slavery is alive and well during this time and the narrator himself is sold into slavery. Now, the narrator is Oliver, a 12-year-old boy from England who was sent to the colonies as a convict. There were other folks on the convict ship with him and their crimes seemed very minor by today’s standards. The oldest one of his shipmates is in his 80’s and was convicted for stealing a loaf of bread! However, the whole setup seemed to be to convict poor people of crimes and ship them over the ocean to become slave labor for farmers who sent their crops back across the ocean. So, there was an economic benefit to sending them over as convicts. 

In the colonies, Oliver is the last one from his ship left after the others are sold. No one wanted to buy a small boy because he would not be able to do as much work. So, through an unscrupulous man in town, he is sold to a drunkard farmer who is very abusive. Oliver is taken to his farm and meets another boy there, an enslaved boy about his own age named Bara. The difference is that Bara is black and Oliver is white. However, the farmer treats both of them equally cruelly. The boys plan an escape through the swamp, but have to be careful because the farmer has killed a previous boy who tried to escape. Will they make it out?

This story was eye-opening in that it brings the cruel institution of slavery to light through the eyes of a child who is caught up within it. Even though it seems horrible by today’s standards, this was the reality back then. And thousands of human beings went through this horror, including countless children. Many of them were younger than Oliver. As a historical fiction novel, it does a good job of showing the reader the day to day reality for those people. It is at times both frightening and maddening. The reader worries for the safety of the two boys and hopes that they make their escape and that Oliver can find his sister. But, the reader also experiences intense emotion at the horrific treatment of what are just kids. 

Because this novel draws you in so well and gives you a glimpse of this world, it does its job very well. The characters are believable and their situations are too. Their actions are understandable and the reader will be hoping for the good guys to win this one. Be prepared for some scenes of cruelty and abuse, as this is a story about an inherently violent and cruel institution. But, the end has historical significance too and I learned about the Maroons. Look them up. It’s a very interesting story!
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I’m very troubled by this title. In the past, I have loved Avi’s work and always look forward to a new story by him. He has a creative imagination and adds splendid details and quirks to his story and characters that make them memorable and long lasting. I did not read the first story that this is a sequel for, yet did not feel that I missed too much. For me this story just feel flat.
Oliver was a good character, which did have a full background and great adventures. The story had rise and fall, learning points, tough decisions, and big surprises. For me, I felt that the voice that the novel was written in is what turned me off. Oliver was very monotone about his life and made reading his story quite boring, even at the exciting parts. The older style of language may also be off putting to younger readers who are used to a quick paced novel. I did not feel a connection to Oliver and began skimming his story because I still wanted to know what happened. 
This was a decent historical novel that had great insight into a horrible time in history, yet just fell short for me. I hope that other readers take more enjoyment in it.
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Once I started this book,  I could not put it down! Avi is a remarkable author.  He takes the reader inside his story, so they experience it so profoundly they don't want to turn away for a moment. This was exactly how I felt while reading the story of Oliver.  
I had no idea England would send criminals over to the colonies, until I read this book.  And to think they would send someone as young as 6 was disturbing! This story gave me an insight into the young colonies of America. I live in Maryland and this story is based in Annapolis. I found this so interesting.  
You must go read this story right now, especially if you love historical fiction.  You won't be disappointed!!
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First off, I would recommend reading the first book, The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts before reading the sequel. The sequel can stand alone, but the first book fills in al lot of the blanks the reader will encounter in the sequel, especially concerning his family status before 12 year old Oliver is convicted as a felon. 

In his desperate struggle for survival, Oliver steals some money from a wrecked ship. The penalty is hanging or being shipped to America for a seven year stint as an indentured servant. We open with Oliver’s Transport  from England to America. A young boy, shackled to his fellow prisoners, enduring inedible food, filthy conditions, and deadly storms as they voyage across the Atlantic. But the hazardous shipboard journey is nothing compared to the peril that waits him on the colonial shores. Toward the end of the journey, the prisoners are treated more humanely in order to make them more presentable to potential buyers. 

Unfortunately, I guess, Oliver is young and not a desired servant. He is sent to another filthy situation, jail. Eventually a buyer does show and Oliver’s indentured servitude  is purchased by the foul, miserly Fitzhugh, who may have murdered his own  servant who tried to flee Fitzhugh’s cruelty. On this isolated tobacco farm, Oliver’s only companion is an enslaved African boy named  Bara. Oliver and Bara become fast friends with the same powerful goal: to escape their murderous master.

Oliver,  being separated from him sister, Charity, is on a quest to find her. She was brought somewhere in the colonies on a different ship. Bara’s dream is  of reaching a community of free black people in the cypress swamp who may help him gain his liberty.  But first the boys must flee Fitzhugh’s plantation and outrun their brutal master and the multitude of dangers that lurk in the swamp.

This is a work of historical fiction. Readers will become  familiar with felon indentured servitude,  and the legendary Maroons which was new to me. The disparity between the haves and the have-nots in 18th century Britain and the harsh laws of that time along the great cruelties inflicted on people and children who were simply trying to survive makes this book a heart stopping tale of survival.

Avi presents the story of Oliver Cromwell Pitts in the style of an 18th Century memoir. 
The story is sober look into the violent racist period of the time so reader be prepared for some disturbing events in a young boy’s  life.

Thank you Netgally and Algonquin Young a Readers for allowing me to read the ARC of this fine work.
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I did not realize that this book was the sequel to "The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts: Being an Absolutely Accurate Autobiographical Account of My Follies, Fortune, and Fate", which came out last year, until after I started reading it. While I would prefer to have read the first book before this one, it does work as a stand-alone since Oliver graciously gives the reader a quick summary of the events in the first book.

In this story, Oliver's misfortune contintues as he is sentenced to 7 years of indentured servitude, and sent to the American colonies, where after surviving attrocious conditions on the ship, he is eventually sold to a cruel master, who boasts of murdering another boy because he thought he was going to run away. Oliver is befriended by Bara, the slightly older black slave boy, and the two begin to plan an escape, but Oliver's recklessness causes them to have to leave immediately, escaping into the swamp. Can they evade both capture and the dangers of the swamp and find sanctuary in the legendary Maroons?

Part history lesson about the disparity between the haves and have-nots in 18th century Britain, the shockingly harsh laws of that time, and the great cruelties inflicted on people and children who were just trying to survive, and heart-stopping tale of survival, this story would appeal to middle-grade readers who are looking for adventure, stories of survival and facing adversity, and enjoy or are at least open to historical fiction. Some readers might be a little put-off by the language and writing style, but if they stick with it will soon be drawn into the story. 

This book is fairly fast-paced with short chapters, with a satisfying, though somewhat contrived, ending. My biggest criticism is that the ending seemed a bit rushed, very convenient and contrived, without enough explanation. Based on the way the book ended, I would not be surprised to see a third book that reveals Bara's fate.
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This is a sequel to Avi's Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitt, and it picks up almost immediately.  Oliver is a boy of 12 when he accused and convicted of a crime in England.  He's been sentenced as a convict to the American colonies.  He's shipped off on a prison ship and he will need to work as an indentured servant for seven years.  Along the way he meets several people who will have a profound effect on his life - for good or ill.  

Avi is a master of historical fiction for middle grade readers.  When Oliver arrives in America it's at Annapolis, MD.  I live in Baltimore and Avi's descriptions of Annapolis are so spot on I know exactly where Oliver travels took him.  As with good historical fiction, I learned about snippets of history that are often ignored in history class - such as children as indentured servants, and maroon communities.  The story is engaging and full of suspense.  I don't feel that the reader needs to read the first book in the series to appreciate this book.  

The only caution I have with this book is to be sure to give it enough time to get into the rhythm of the text.  Since it's written from Oliver's point of view, the language and cadence will be old fashioned for our middle grade readers.  It only took a few chapters to fall into the rhythm of the story.
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This historical novel is set in colonial America, and the first person narrator, Oliver Cromwell Pitts, in a very Dickensian style, writes of how he and his sister are transported to the colonies for a petty crime. He is sold to a vicious old man as an indentured servant, and his struggle to survive and find his sister continues, although now he has an ally, another boy brought from Africa and sold to the same man as a slave.
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