When my children were young, my idea of a fun-day out was to drag them around the museums of Aix, pointing out interesting monuments on the way. For some reason, they were never quite as enthusiastic as I hoped they’d be.
What I needed then was a book like Operation Cézanne. That way, my girls would think they were simply reading a gripping adventure novel, unaware that they were also learning fascinating historical facts about Aix-en-Provence. Sneaky, eh ?
I suppose I was a bit late in getting the book written and published as my children are adults now (they’re used to it: I still haven’t got around to making that doll’s house I promised them). Still, that doesn’t stop them from enjoying the adventures of Charlie Travers, Time Traveller, which they have described as Enid-Blyton-meets-Doctor-Who.
And I hope you’ll enjoy it too, even if you’re not aged between eight and twelve!
Operation Cézanne is the first in the series of Charlie Travers, Time Traveller books. The wonderful front cover was done by the talented Sybil Harris
You can find Charlie here:
and on all the other Amazon sites, of course.
You can read the blurb and the first chapter below.
Sometimes, twelve year-old Charlie Travers wishes he’d never been born a Time traveller. He never goes anywhere exciting, his mum makes him eat horrible food she brings back from the Middle Ages - and he’s still rubbish at history.
Then Charlie receives a mysterious plea for help from the past and when his parents take him back to Aix-en-Provence in 1902, he’s rather hoping he’ll find out who sent it. He has no idea he is about to embark on a breath-taking journey through Time, where kidnappers, dinosaurs and a stolen painting will be the least of his worries…
Charlie Travers, Time Traveller
Sometimes, Charlie Travers wished he’d never been born a Time traveller.
Having stomped as loudly as he could up the stairs, slammed his bedroom door and flung his schoolbag across the room, he now threw himself on to his bed.
“Aix-en-Provence,” he yelled at the closed door. “Boring, boring, boring. How come Ade gets to go to the Boer Wars and the French Revolution and I get to – to - to go to a stupid bath in Aix-en-Provence?”
Mrs Travers, who had been boiling something that smelt disgusting, was now coming up the stairs, humming to herself.
“Never mind, love,” she said as she walked into Charlie’s bedroom without knocking. “Have a nice bowl of frumenty, it’ll cheer you up.”
“It’ll make me throw up,” snapped Charlie. His mum was forever cooking stuff she’d discovered on a Time tour. In fact, she did most of her shopping in the Middle Ages because she said the food was better for him. Charlie couldn’t see how something that looked like sick and smelt like a cow pat could be good for him at all and he pushed the bowl away.
Mrs Travers sat on the bed next to Charlie and ruffled his hair with her free hand.
“Oops, sorry love,” she said, picking out the bits of soggy frumenty that had got stuck in his fringe.
“Mum, can’t we go somewhere exciting for once? Like Egypt? Or China?”
Mrs Travers put the bowl of frumenty on the bedside table and rubbed her hands on her skirt.
“Well, love, you see your father’s got this nasty rash on his b…”
“Stop!” shouted Charlie, sticking his fingers in his ears. “Anyway, why do I have to come? You’ll only be gone for ten minutes.”
It is a common misconception that no time passes at all when you travel in time and that you always get back to the point you left. This simply isn’t true. And even less so where Chronic Tours was concerned, which was the Time travel agency used by Charlie’s family. You were lucky to get back to the same decade with them.
“Well, I know for a fact that that nice girl, Cynthia, is coming along,” said Mrs Travers as she stood up. “She’ll be company for you.”
That made things even worse. Cynthia was a stuck-up, bossy know-it-all and it was bad enough having to sit next to her in class never mind go on holiday with her.
Charlie knew it was no use arguing with his mum. He slumped back on to his pillow and muttered: “Old people with rheumatism and rashes. Fantastic. Can’t wait.”
Mrs Travers smiled. “Eat your frumenty before it gets cold, love.” She shut the door quietly behind her.
“Wish I had my own Time machine,” Charlie grumbled. Of course, that was practically impossible. Only multi-millionaires could afford their own Time machine and even then, the upkeep was beyond the means of most Time travellers. Charlie had tried to persuade his parents to consider a Time Share, where they would buy a machine with other families. But his dad said it was still too expensive and they’d only have the Time machine two weeks a year.
The problem was, his mum and dad never wanted to do anything exciting, ever. Even when they weren’t Time travelling, they didn’t do things other parents did. Ade’s mum and dad were Time travellers too but they took him hang gliding and canoeing and skiing in the holidays. Ade even went to summer camp every year with Chronic Tours but Charlie’s dad said Roman Britain was full of hooligans and he wouldn’t send his dog there. They didn’t have a dog but that wasn’t the point. The point was Charlie’s mum and dad treated Charlie like a baby and he was nearly twelve. He was fed up of it.
Charlie wished there were more Time travellers in Warpington. Well, more children anyway. There were plenty of oldies – he saw them regularly on Time tours. But the only children he knew were Ade and snotty Cynthia. If there were more, he’d never met them; then again, it’s not something you go around telling people. You’d get locked up if you did.
You had to be careful, especially in history lessons. All time travellers were good at history, obviously, but sometimes the history books got it wrong and if you started talking about stuff that wasn’t in the books, you could be in trouble. It happened to Ade, once. Ade wasn’t in Charlie’s class so Charlie hadn’t heard it first hand but it was all around the school at break-time. The conversation had gone something like this:
Mr Bradbury …and during the Battle of Hastings, King Harold was killed. How did he die? Ademola?
Ade: Um, he got his thumb caught in his hauberk and slid off his horse, sir.
Mr Bradbury: Don’t try to be funny with me, lad.
Ade (puzzled): I’m not sir. It’s true, I saw him…um…I mean…um
Mr Bradbury: Stay behind after class, Ademola. We’ll see who’s laughing then…
Ade had to write At the Battle of Hastings, King Harold was shot through the eye with an arrow five-hundred times and he was grounded for a week by his dad.
Charlie suddenly remembered he had some history homework to do for Monday.
“Might as well do it now,” he muttered, swinging his legs off the bed and grabbing his schoolbag. He had to write an essay on The English Civil War and as his parents refused to take him there, he’d have to look stuff up himself.
He was rummaging through a pile of books on the floor when something caught his eye. On one of his black trainers (that was on the floor too – he didn’t know where the other one was), a yellow patch was forming. It grew bigger and brighter until it resembled a post-it note and then – as Charlie had expected – letters began to form.
“Wow!” he said as he grabbed the note. “A Time slip!”
Charlie had never been sent a Time slip before. In fact, he’d only ever seen one once. It had materialised on the television screen one evening while his dad was watching the snooker. His dad was really annoyed because the Time slip appeared right in the middle and blocked his view of a particularly tricky combination-shot. It had been from Auntie Maureen. She was lost in a souk in Marrakech, in the fourteenth century and wanted to know if someone could please find her. Charlie’s dad had carried on watching the snooker but someone must have found her because she turned up the following Christmas with a box of Turkish Delight and a very deep suntan.
But this Time slip was for Charlie! He waited impatiently for the words to become clear then read them out loud:
“Aix-en-Provence, twelfth of June nineteen-oh-two. Help Perpetua fi…”
He waited for the end of the sentence but it didn’t come. What did ‘fi’ mean? Who was Perpetua? And how come the Time slip was dated the very year Charlie and his family would be travelling to?
Charlie grinned. He put the Time slip in his pocket and went downstairs, whistling.
For once, he was quite looking forward to going on holiday.