cover image Time Snatchers

Time Snatchers

Richard Ungar. Putnam, $16.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-399-25485-7

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.)