Escape From Botany Bay


Condemned to a penal colony in Australia for stealing a woman's bonnet,
young Mary Bryant braves every danger in Britain's newest colony,
Australia -- disease, famine, rape, and the cruelty of the penal system.
As the first convict married in Australia, Mary and her husband Will learn from aboriginal friends how to survive. In time they also learn how to escape. Traveling three months and three thousand miles,...
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Escape From Botany Bay

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Condemned to a penal colony in Australia for stealing a woman's bonnet,
young Mary Bryant braves every danger in Britain's newest colony,
Australia -- disease, famine, rape, and the cruelty of the penal system.
As the first convict married in Australia, Mary and her husband Will learn from aboriginal friends how to survive. In time they also learn how to escape. Traveling three months and three thousand miles, Mary's courageous feat is yet unequaled by a woman with two young children traversing rough seas for so many miles in an open boat without training or navigational equipment. Mary's capture, return to England and the curious trial that determines if she lives or dies is filled with drama, and all the more interesting for the portrait of her real-life attorney, James Boswell.

In 1791, after being transported to Australia in the first shipment of convicts, Mary Bryant, her husband, two children, and seven other convicts, unable to endure the terrible conditions of the penal colony, organize a daring escape in an open boat.

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Editorial Reviews

This is a historical novel that makes Australian history vividly real. The authors carefully recreate the true story of Mary, so I will use the past tense because Mary did actually live. She was an adolescent in Cornwall, starving, who took to highway robbery in an effort to provide food for herself and her parents. For stealing a bonnet, she was arrested and sentenced to death—this was in 1786. She was selected along with hundreds of other prisoners to be sent to Botany Bay, but first she and others were crowded into the holds of boats in the harbor of Plymouth for months. During this time, she sought protection with one of the sailors in exchange for sexual favors and became pregnant. This child was born on the voyage to Australia, and she survived, but the officers of the colony required that Mary become married. She chose a fellow from her part of the world, Will Bryant, and together they tried to survive the nightmare conditions at the colony of Botany Bay. Will had been a fisherman and knew how to catch enough fish to feed all the colonists, which was certainly important but resulted in jealousy and bad feelings among the prisoners. The couple had a son in the few years they were trying to make it in the penal colony, but they dreamed of escape... and escape they did. There is an account of a harrowing journey across 3,000 miles of ocean, similar to the journey taken by Captain Bligh after the mutiny on the Bounty. The couple, their two little children, and seven men who escaped with them survived the journey to Timor, a Dutch colony. The rest of the story is harrowing: the deaths of the children and Will, recapture and return to prison in England. James Boswell took up Mary's causein England and the end of the story is about Mary's release from prison. It's quite an adventure! The authors have done a wonderful job of making Mary's voice real to modern-day readers. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, Scholastic, Orchard, 220p.,
— Claire Rosser
Children's Literature
Written during a volatile time in history, this is the true story of a nineteen-year-old girl who is put on a prison ship just hours before being hung for stealing a lady's bonnet. At first, Mary believes this reprieve is one to be celebrated, but soon learns that there are worse things than death. Unspeakable hardships, loneliness, and hunger are survived only by her strong resolve to be free. This is a great book to use in history classes, as it is an unusual biography that is written in first person narrative and offers facts, emotions, and a real person with whom the reader can identify. It is well written, full of excitement and adventure, and offers a story that readers will think about long after the book is finished. Those who knew Mary called her a heroine; those who can only read about her will call her a heroine and a role model. 2003, Orchard Books, Josephs
Guilty of petty theft in 1786 England, nineteen-year-old Mary Broad has her death sentence suddenly reduced to "seven years' transportation," and she is shipped off to the penal colony of Botany Bay in Australia. Aboard the filthy, disease-ridden prison ship, Mary receives the "attentions" of one of her guards, which guarantees her extra rations and time above deck but also leaves her pregnant. Soon after their arrival in Botany Bay, Mary weds a fellow prisoner, Will Bryant. The conditions in the colony are dangerous and unbearable, and Mary soon begins to plan an escape. With her two children, husband, and a handful of other prisoners, Mary begins a perilous journey by sea. Her successful, although costly, voyage eventually leads her back to England and freedom. The text is preceded by an authors' note revealing that Mary Broad Bryant was a real woman whose plight, although relatively well known in her time, has been all but forgotten by history. The authors generally succeed in their stated intention to "recapture the immediacy" of Mary's situation. Mary is reminiscent of many other feisty young historical fiction heroines, and despite her age-twenty-six by the end of the novel-young adults will be able to relate to her courage and determination. Dedicated readers of historical fiction will move past the often slow-moving plot to appreciate the hope, adventure, and triumph that this story brings. VOYA Codes: 3Q 2P J S (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Orchard, 224p,
— Sarah Dornback
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-A successful combination of fictional narrative based on a real person and well-researched facts. Sentenced to hang for stealing a lady's bonnet in 1786, 19-year-old Mary becomes a remarkable survivor. When her death sentence is commuted, she is transported from England to the wretched bowels of a crowded prison ship bound for Botany Bay. She takes advantage of all help, knowing any assistance comes at a price. One "exchange of sorts" with a marine who has provided her with fresh air, an orange, a clean dress, and a bit of freedom results in a baby. Once on land, the prisoners are expected to build a settlement in what will become Australia. Mary's marriage to another convict, Will Bryant, improves her plight in minute ways but, even so, life is unbearable. Using her contact with a ship's captain and her husband's knowledge of the sea, she, Will, her two children, and seven other convicts escape. After three months and 3000 miles in an open boat, they arrive at Timor, but their freedom is short-lived. Will's drunken stories alert the authorities and the group is soon under arrest. He and the children die of fever in captivity, but by 1794, Mary has returned to Cornwall. Shortly thereafter, records of her existence disappear. The carefully chosen language reflects the voice of an illiterate, uneducated young woman whose intelligence, strength, and determination make her survival possible, and Mary's descriptions awaken the senses to the sights, the sounds, the stink, and the filthy horrors of the floating hulk with "churning neath the keel." This is a riveting adventure for fans of historical fiction.-Carolyn Janssen, Children's Learning Center of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The most famous survivor of her time, Mary Bryant holds the record for the longest open-boat voyage by a woman. In her day, only Captain Bligh bested her, but he was an experienced navigator. In 1786, 19-year-old Mary-poor and close to starving-made a conscious decision to look hunger in the face and become a highway woman in order to survive. She and her accomplices, Catherine Fryer and Mary Haydon, took to the woodlands and became thieves. Caught early on, Mary was sentenced to hang, but was instead put on a prison ship and sent to help colonize New Holland, now called Australia. Whether this was the better fate was not obvious to the prisoners on this ship that was "full of rats and holes and will sooner sink than sail." Forced labor in Botany Bay Colony, in the shadow of the gallows erected on the knoll, was a horrible existence, and Mary, her new husband, their two children, and seven other convicts stole a boat and fled 3,000 miles across the ocean. James Boswell defended Mary in court, and her story is well documented in interviews, journals, and histories of the day. The Hausmans write in a lively, inspirational tone, consciously portraying Mary as a hero for modern times. The inelegantly written authors' note detracts from an otherwise solid story. This will appeal to fans of true adventure tales. (epilogue) (Fiction. 12+)
School Library Journal - School Journal
"a successful combination of fictional narrative based on a real person and well-researched facts. Sentenced to hang for stealing a lady's bonnet in 1786, 19-year-old Mary becomes a remarkable survivor...a riveting adventure for fans of historical fiction."
Parent's Choice Magazine - Parent's Choice
"This book is a page turner."
Booklist - Book List
"The hausmans use a vivid first person narrative to unfold Mary's incrdible story...a facinating, credible protagonist that readers will like and remember."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781617202032
  • Publisher: Wilder Publications
  • Publication date: 5/13/2011
  • Pages: 194
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.45 (d)

Meet the Author

GERALD HAUSMAN and LORETTA HAUSMAN spent 22 years in the Southwest during which time Gerald translated stories with his Navajo artist friend, Jay DeGroat. Some of these tales, like The Turquoise Horse, have been used in anthologies and school programs for three decades. Gerald has spoken on the History Channel, NPR’s All Things Considered, and Pacifica Broadcasting. The New York Times Book Review called his collection of mythology Tunkashila “An eloquent tribute to the first great storytellers of America.” In 1986, Gerald and Loretta founded the Blue Harbour School for Creative Writing in Jamaica, West Indies and operated it as an accredited summer school until the mid-nineties. After moving to Florida in 1994, the Hausmans continued to do writing workshops throughout the United States. During this time Gerald was awarded an Aesop Accolade Award from the American Folklore Society. Other books that he wrote with his wife Loretta have received honors from the American Bookseller, Children’s Protective Services, Bank Street College of Education, the National Council of Social Studies, the International Reading Association, Parent’s Choice and The New York Public Library. Their more than 70 books have been published in a dozen languages and have made them popular speakers at festivals and colleges. Presently they are part owners of a publishing company dedicated to finding new writing. Gerald says, "As editors, Loretta and I have always been passionate about helping other writers. Over the years we have helped many authors find their voice and get into print with established publishing houses. But more than that, we never lose sight of the fact that writing like life is a joyous expression, a gift that makes each day a transcendent treasure freshly opened to eye and ear."
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