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The Convicts

by Iain Lawrence

Published by Delacorte Press, 2005
208 pages
ISBN: 0-385-73087-X

Ages 11-14

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, especially outfitted to hold juvenile convicts until they are old enough for transport. Tom's life about 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 the sea, something that shames 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 him. The only bright spot in Tom’s existence is his friendship with Midgely, a small boy who knows how to escape his miserable circumstances by using his imagination, which gives both boys the power to envision an escape from the ship. 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, Iain Lawrence writes about the actual ships that held and transported juvenile convicts in the 19th century, as well as other historical details that served as a basis for the story. (KTH) ©2005 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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