The Convicts

by Iain Lawrence

Tom Tin, the son of a sea captain who’s fallen on hard times, is falsely accused... read more

Tom Tin, the son of a sea captain who’s fallen on hard times, is falsely accused of murder and sentenced to be transported to New South Wales aboard a convict ship. But because he is just thirteen, he must first work aboard the Lachesis, a rotting hulk chained to a riverbed near the Chatham docks that is especially outfitted to hold juvenile convicts until they are old enough for transport. Tom’s life on the ship is a living hell: the food is rancid, the living quarters squalid, the work monotonous, and the stronger boys prey upon the weaker ones. To make matters worse, Tom is terribly seasick and afraid of water, something that shames him since his father is a sea captain. Mistaken from the beginning for a tough street kid known as Smasher, Tom becomes the target of the ship’s bully, who has an old score to settle with Smasher. The only bright spot in Tom’s existence is his friendship with Midgely, a small boy who knows how to relieve his miserable circumstances by using his imagination, which gives both boys the power to envision an escape from the ship. Iain Lawrence’s gripping adventure story is filled with sinister characters, dastardly deeds, and surprising plot twists that will keep readers engaged from start to finish. In an author’s note, Lawrence writes about the actual ships that held and transported juvenile convicts in the nineteenth century, as well as other historical details that served as a basis for the story. (Ages 11–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2006

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