Welcome to another Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!

Today I present the second book in my quest to provide support to past titles. I call it The Nurturing of Middle Grade Books.


I have a confession to make (head down; eyes covered)… I’ve never read an Avi book. They are always on my TBR list, but somehow never reach the top. One time I even had a copy of CRISPIN-THE CROSS OF LEAD, a Newbery Medal winner from 2003 in my hands. Before I could open up the book a boy who hated to read asked me if he could borrow it. I said of course and never saw the book again.

So last month I happened to come across a copy of THE UNEXPECTED LIFE OF OLIVER CROMWELL PITTS. I tucked myself away on a back porch, away from prying eyes, and read my first Avi book. It was a great experience.

Twelve year old Oliver narrates this historical fiction tale set in 18th century England. He does so in the past tense making you feel like Oliver is sitting next to you recounting all that has happened in his short life. In fact his life has indeed become the pits. Left alone and accused of wrong doings, he flees to find his father and sister in London. It’s a gripping journey told in 60 short chapters, making it a perfect read aloud.

About two thirds of the way through, I panicked because there were so many plot details left to close. I feared this would surely end in a cliffhanger. Sure enough, we must wait until book two to find out what happens to this family. Irritating, but I’ll be first in line for the sequel. My Avi journey is just beginning.



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.



  1. The chapters almost always end in a way to that make you turn the page. Here’s an example from chapter three: I waited for Charity’s summons to join her in London. It did not come. I was sure she had forgotten me. Then, three months after she departed, the terrible storm struck Melcombe Regis and I found myself facing death by drowning in the parlor of our home.
  2. Historical fiction is a tough sell in my middle grade world. It’s books like this one with action and adventure that should attract reluctant historical readers.
  3. I was glad to live in the present after learning about the less than fair justice system at the time. Also, the details about life in London were fascinating.
  4. Oliver makes a great character—one you hope strongly for his success—and the affection for his sister was heartwarming.
  5. One of the characters is based on a real person. The distasteful Jonathan Wild was one of Great Britain’s worst criminals.


I believe reading is the key to writing. The more you read, the better your writing can be.

Listen and watch the world around you. Try to understand why things happen. Don’t be satisfied with answers others give you. Don’t assume that because everyone believes a thing it is right or wrong. Reason things out for yourself. Work to get answers on your own. Understand why you believe things. Finally, write what you honestly feel, then learn from the criticism that will always come your way. (For more see Avi’s author web site)


Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comments link below.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
This entry was posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews, Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. This book sounds like it’s packed full of adventure! Since the chapters end with cliffhangers, I can see myself reading through the whole book very fast! Thanks so much for the review!

  2. Sounds like a great read with the cliffhanger chapter endings. I’l confess too. I only read one of Avi’s books years ago. Glad you enjoyed this one so much

  3. I love Avi’s novels. Oliver Cromwell Pitts sounds like a gripping and exciting story. Avi make historical fiction exciting and alive. I’ve read City of Orphans and Sophia’s War and still have many more to read.

  4. I feel your pain, because I’ve only read one Avi book myself and know I’ve only scratched the surface. This one sounds like a great way to continue the journey, and a great book to recommend!

  5. Avi readers come and go in my library. I didn’t buy Cromwell Pitts, but Catch You Later, Traitor is very popular. You should pick that one up– the historical details for the 1950s are especially good!

  6. Avi’s books have always been hit or miss with me. I adored CRISPIN, THE CROSS OF LEAD. But some of his later books left me feeling strangely indifferent. I admire your determination to bring attention to older MG books.

  7. Very late this week. I didn’t get any emails on Monday about the blogs, not even MMGM. Very strange. Anyway, I like Avi and this sounds like a book I would enjoy. Thanks for telling me about it.

  8. Pingback: Everything aboutThe Unexpected Life ofOliver Cromwell Pitts – Word Craft

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