The boy who stepped through time by Anna Ciddor

cover image

Teachers and librarians, when "building the field" while teaching about Ancient Rome (year 7 HASS Australian curriculum) grab The boy who stepped through time by Melbourne author Anna Ciddor and read it to your students. It is an exciting middle grade time-slip adventure set in Roman Gaul, a southern part of the Ancient Roman Empire of the 4th century CE. 

The setting moves from contemporary time to the time of Constantine; from a villa to a townhouse, both of which are modelled on real ruins that have been excavated in Southern France. All details of the lives of a southern Gaul of that time period have been thoroughly researched to provide an authenticity that teachers and students can trust. It is important to note that the author has combined with her sister Tamara Lewit who is a professional archaeologist and historian specialising in Ancient Rome. The Boy who stepped through time is rich in historical detail. 

The central character is a thoroughly likeable boy of a similar age to the intended readership of the book. In a way it is a coming of age book because Perry (Peregrine-suitably Latin for traveller) AKA known later on as Peregrinus is transported from a crumbling Roman ruin in France which his Australian family are visiting while on holidays in France, back to that same building - a villa belonging to a wealthy 4th century CE Roman family. Perry is torn between fearing he can never return to his family back in the contemporary world, his worry about how much his family must be worried about his disappearance and his need to stay in ancient Roman times in order to save the life of Valentia, a Roman girl from the wealthy classes. He grows up, he learns about what matters and he learns to survive on his own wits and the friendship of others.

Unfortunately for Perry, when he bursts into the 4th century CE Roman world, the Romans think that he is a slave boy. He has to maintain this pretence and learn the ropes of a slave's life very quickly. It is the knowledge that he has gained about Valentia, learnt from a modern day museum tour, that has him try everything to avert the fate that he thinks that will befall her - to somehow intervene and change the course of history.

Like The Chicken Curse by Frances Watts, The Boy who stepped through time is a highly recommended read. Both books are set in Ancient Gaul with young slaves as protagonists and both are page-turners.

The boy who stepped through time is entertaining and educational. It will spark students' interest in finding out more about history, ancient cultures and archaeology. To consolidate and support that interest there is a glossary, and an author and researcher's note at the end along with a website that promises more exciting results of "detective work" in the field of archaeology.

A thoroughly enjoyable, refreshingly delightful, highly recommended book for middle graders.

Themes: time-slip, ancient Rome.

Wendy Jeffrey