Best Book Publishers UK | Austin Macauley Publishers

By: Clare Cohen

The Wild Boy of Van Dieman's Land

Pages: 130 Ratings: 5.0
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What do you think could be the worst thing that could happen to you if you were so hungry you stole a bun?

In Victorian England, any theft at all could see you hung or sent to the other side of the world to a penal colony where you would be taught a lesson you would never forget. Your wickedness must be punished.

Davy’s father dies and he and his family are destitute. In a moment of weakness, ten-year-old Davy steals a bun. Now his troubles really start. He is brutalized and bullied in the prison until his wild behaviour ensures that he is transported to the notorious Van Dieman’s Land. Once he is there, life just gets harder and he begins to earn his name of ‘The Wild Boy.’

Meanwhile, his sister, twelve-year-old Hannah has been left to find work and fend for the family. She takes work in service to the prison chaplain’s family where her ingenuity and courage ensure that she is on the same transportation ship as Davy. Can she save him from life as a convict in the harshest colony of all? Can she ever reunite their shattered family?

A visit to Port Arthur, a Victorian penal colony in Tasmania, which was formerly known as Van Dieman’s Land, inspired Clare Cohen to combine her love of reading, story-telling and history to write this story.

She began to imagine how a boy from Victorian London could have ended up on the other side of the world and what lengths his family would have gone to find him.

For many years, Clare has helped adults to learn to read and enjoy literature, in addition to running two book groups.

Customer Reviews
2 reviews
2 reviews
  • Ingela H

    It's a lovely book and what a story it grabbed me straight away, I just wanted to know how the siblings would turn out and the ending was surprising and really good. It's a great history lesson of times not so far away and difficult for all of us to understand.

  • Linda Dubé

    This tale of a Victorian brother and sister’s extraordinary experiences in London’s old docklands and a penal settlement in Van Dieman’s Land (modern-day Tasmania) is an engaging read for 12–14-year old boys and girls alike. The primary theme of poverty, with its attendant hunger, squalor, cruelty, and unfairness, ends in redemption, gained mainly through hard work, ingenuity, and the odd bit of shenanigans. The adults seem a bit unidimensional next to the more colourful portraits of the children, but the historical content is appealing, and the ending is agreeable. And it’s short (116 pages), so a reluctant reader might find it attractive. Avid readers who enjoy history will find it a good read.

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