Island of Thieves

( 5 )


"Only boring people get bored…Interesting people can always find something to be interested in."

That’s what Tom Trelawney’s father says, anyway. Tom shouldn’t have been interested in playing with matches but he was...bored. Now the shed is in ashes and strange Uncle Harvey is the only one willing to have him stay while his parents vacation
     Tom soon discovers Harvey is going to South America on a treasure...

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Island of Thieves

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"Only boring people get bored…Interesting people can always find something to be interested in."

That’s what Tom Trelawney’s father says, anyway. Tom shouldn’t have been interested in playing with matches but he was...bored. Now the shed is in ashes and strange Uncle Harvey is the only one willing to have him stay while his parents vacation
     Tom soon discovers Harvey is going to South America on a treasure hunt and though nephews aren’t invited, he manages to tag along. Before it’s over he’ll drive a car, fire a gun and run for his life. Tom realizes that life may be about following the rules, but survival may be about breaking them.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Pam Carlson
Tom Trelawney does not know what to expect when he is left in New York with Uncle Harvey as a babysitter while his parents vacation in Nassau. After all, the two hardly know each other, and fourteen-year-old Tom has led an incredibly dull life compared with Harvey's risky ventures across the world. All Tom ever did was accidentally burn down a shed. So when Harvey announces that he needs to return to Lima, Peru, for "business" purposes, Tom begs to come along. Once there, the two stumble across a diary kept by the brother of Sir Francis Drake containing directions to a treasure of gold and silver stolen from a Spanish galleon. Unfortunately, Harvey owes a lot of money to Peru's premiere gangster, Otto Gonzalez. Once the diary is deciphered, Otto insists on accompanying them when they set sail to find the riches. At that point, it is the Trelawneys versus Otto and his henchmen, and it is impossible to predict who will wind up with the prize. This briskly told tale is evocative of the film Romancing the Stone (minus the romance), with its South American setting, ruthless villain, bit-of-a-thief-himself good guy, and nonstop action. But it is Tom for whom the readers will root as he grows from a naive teen into a cautiously daring adventurer. This is a fine choice to add to a "Guys Read" list. Reviewer: Pam Carlson
Children's Literature - Amy S. Hansen
This is a fast-paced adventure of treasure-hunting and history. It will keep you turning pages and wishing for more. Tom is a good, but somewhat careless kid (age not specified). He is supposed to spend a week with his neighbors while his parents go away on vacation, but after burning down the shed, the neighbors don't want him. He is foisted off on his uncle and Tom expects to face a week in of museums in New York City. Instead, Tom discovers that Uncle Harvey is at the beginning of an international treasure hunt, a hunt that can't be slowed down just because a nephew is in the picture. In the end, of course, Tom joins in, becoming as much a part of the hunt as Uncle Harvey. The author has mastered the cliffhanger chapter ending, pulling you through the book even when you should be getting on with other work in the day. Don't bother with the other work. Just sit down and enjoy the book. It will feel too short in the end. Reviewer: Amy S. Hansen
Kirkus Reviews
What kid doesn't dream of swashbuckling adventures in faraway places, freed from the strictures of parents, school, siblings and caregivers? Tom Trelawney gets to experience a real adventure in this rollicking tale, but it may just be more than he bargained for. It all starts when Tom nearly ruins his parents' vacation by accidentally burning down the shed in his backyard. He didn't mean to cause problems; he was just bored. When no one will take care of him as a result, his father is desperate enough to call on Uncle Harvey to "babysit" for a week. Harvey welcomes Tom into his New York City apartment, but as soon as Tom's parents leave, he starts packing for Peru, intending to leave Tom on his own. When he tells Tom it's because he has an opportunity to hunt for pirate treasure, Tom blackmails his uncle into taking him along as an assistant. He's looking forward to a treasure hunt, but he is totally unprepared when met at the airport by Peru's most dangerous and notorious gangster. Uncle Harvey hasn't been exactly honest with Tom (or, apparently, with anyone else) and now must face the consequences. And this is just the beginning. Tom's voice carries a little bit of his British father's inflection, and it moves the story along capably, taking readers from adventure to adventure with aplomb. An enjoyable escapade, delivered with wit, wisdom and just a bit of history thrown in for good measure. (Adventure. 9-12)
From the Publisher

"An enjoyable escapade, delivered with wit, wisdom and just a bit of history thrown in for good measure."
Kirkus Reviews

"Nonstop action . . . This is a fine choice to add to a 'Guys Read' list."

"A thrilling adventure."
The UK Guardian

"Irresistibly funny and action-packed, this well-paced, smartly-written crime caper is just the thing for bored boys. Uncle Harvey is a wonderful comic creation; more, please!"
The London Times

School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Tom Trelawney's father told him, "Only boring people get bored...interesting people can always find something to be interested in." Unfortunately, Tom took an interest in matches and burned down his family's garden shed. What he hadn't counted on was this being the first step of an adventure that would carry him from Connecticut to New York City, and then halfway around the world to Peru. The journey takes both Tom and his Uncle Harvey up the Andes and then across the Pacific Ocean in search of treasure fabled to belong to Sir Francis Drake. This blend of adventure and mystery is predictable and many of the attempts to be humorous fall a little flat. There is enough intrigue and excitement, however, to attract readers, even reluctant ones.—Wayne R. Cherry, Jr., First Baptist Academy Library, Houston, TX
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547763279
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 6/5/2012
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 423,753
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 640L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Josh Lacey is a British writer. He has written several children’s books and one book for adults, God is Brazilian, a biography of Charles Miller, the man who introduced football to Brazil.
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Read an Excerpt


I didn’t mean to burn down our garden shed. But now I’m glad I did. If I hadn’t, none of this would have happened. The island. The gold. It was all because of burning down that shed.
   The first day of vacation I was sitting in there playing with a box of matches. Striking one. Watching it burn. Blowing it out. Throwing the dead stick on the floor and reaching for another.
   I was bored.
   You’re not allowed to say that word in our house.
   Only boring people get bored,
says Dad. Interesting people can always find something to be interested in.
   You can’t be bored,
says Mom. There’s so much to do here! Why don’t you play a game? Or call a friend? Or go for a bike ride? 
  But I didn’t feel like doing any of that stuff. So I hid in the shed and played with matches.
   Suddenly I smelled smoke. I looked around. Flames were blazing up the walls. One of the matches must have still been burning when I dropped it on the floor. I sprang at the door, wrenched it open, and threw myself outside.
   As I rolled across the grass, my clothes smoking, I saw my mom standing at the French windows, her mouth open in a silent scream. Then she ran to get her phone.
   By the time the fire engines arrived, the shed had burned itself out. They drenched it anyway, making sure no sparks blew into any of the neighbors’ houses. The chief fireman gave me a long lecture about fire safety. So did Mom. And Dad. They were still discussing how to punish me when the phone rang. It was Mrs. Spencer, calling to say that she was very sorry, but they really couldn’t have me to stay. What if I burned down their shed too? Or even their house?
   "It was an accident," said Dad. "He’ll never do anything like it again."
   But Mrs. Spencer wouldn’t listen.
   Dad sat at the kitchen table with his head in his hands. "I don’t believe it," he groaned. "We’ll have to take him with us."
   "We can’t," said Mom.
   "Then what are we going to do?"
   "Someone will have him."
   "Oh, yes?" asked Dad. "Who?"
   My parents were having their first vacation together without children since my big sister, Grace, was born. My kid brother, Jack, was staying with his friend Bongo. Grace was staying with her friend Ruby. I would have been staying with Finn Spencer, but his parents wouldn’t have me now. After the shed incident, neither would anyone else.
   "I don’t mind staying here," I told my parents.
   "No chance," said Dad.
   I had another suggestion. "I could share Gran’s room at the Home. I like playing chess with her friend Isaac. And the food’s not bad."
   But Mom vetoed that, too. "If no one will have you, we’ll just have to cancel the vacation."
   That was when Dad panicked. He called everyone he knew.
   Everyone he could think of.
   Even his brother.
   Which was how I came to be sitting in the back of the family wagon at half past five on that Tuesday morning, whizzing down the interstate toward New York City.
   Apparently I’d met Uncle Harvey a few times at weddings and funerals, but he’d never been to visit us in Norwich and I couldn’t even remember what he looked like. Just like Dad, he was British but lived in the States, although in his case I didn’t know why. Dad came here because he met Mom and married her and she wanted to be near her own parents when Grace was born. Uncle Harvey wasn’t married and had no kids. I guess he just preferred New York to London, which makes sense; it’s cold and damp over there and the food’s terrible.
   The drive took hours. By the time we finally made it to Uncle Harvey’s street, Dad was flipping out. "We’re going to miss the plane," he said, breathless with panic. "I knew we should have left earlier."
   "We’re going to be fine," said Mom calmly. "Look, we’re here already. That’s number nineteen."
   Dad double parked, grabbed my bag from the trunk, and scanned the street for traffic cops, then raced up the steps and rang the bell. Mom and I followed right behind him. We stood on the top step, looking at the paint peeling off the front door and the trash bags stacked against a lamppost, spilling tin cans and orange peels. Two women jogged past. A man came out of another brownstone wearing a blue suit and carrying a racing bike. He put the bike in the road and swung himself onto the seat.
   Dad rang the bell again. "Where the hell is he?"
   "Simon!" said Mom.
   "Sorry," said Dad. "But where is he?"
   "Asleep," I mumbled. "If he has any sense."
   "He can’t be asleep. He knows we’re coming." But Dad took out his phone and called Uncle Harvey. There was a long pause. Then: "Hello? Harvey? Where are you? We’re outside! Didn’t you hear the bell? It doesn’t matter. Forget it. Could you let us in?"
   Six minutes later (Dad timed it), the front door was opened by an unshaven man wearing a long silk bathrobe decorated with yellow butterflies. "Simon! Sarah! How lovely to see you!"

I could see the relief on my parents’ faces. When Uncle Harvey hadn’t answered the door, they really thought they’d have to take me to Nassau. Their vacation would have been ruined. Now they could hand me over and get away for a whole week of sunbathing, reading books by the pool, and smoochy candlelit dinners.
   "Here’s Tom," said Mom, pushing me forward. "He’s very excited about staying so near Greenwich Village. Aren’t you?"
   "Hi," I said.
   Uncle Harvey said hi back and shook my hand. He was taller than my dad, and thinner, too, and he looked much younger, although I knew the actual age difference was only two years and five months.
   Mom said, "Are you sure you don’t mind doing this?"
   "I’m looking forward to it," said Uncle Harvey. He had a mischievous smile. "We’re going to have a wild time together."
   "Not too wild," said Dad. "Tom’s been in enough trouble recently."
   "That sounds interesting. What type of trouble? What have you done?"
   "Oh, nothing much," I said. "Everyone just likes to get annoyed with me all the time."
   "I know exactly what you mean," said Uncle Harvey.
   I knew he didn’t. He was just saying so to be nice. But I still appreciated it.
   Dad gave me a quick, awkward hug. "Bye, Tom. Be good."
   "Bye, Dad. Have a great vacation."
   Mom kissed me. Then she stepped back and looked at me nervously. "I hope we’re doing the right thing. You will behave yourself, won’t you?"
   "Of course he will," said Uncle Harvey. "Now stop worrying. I hereby give you permission to enjoy yourselves. Get thee to the airport and have a glass of wine."
   They didn’t argue. Just rushed down the steps and ran along the street to their car, not wanting to give my uncle the chance to change his mind.
   We stood on the step together, Uncle Harvey and I, watching Mom and Dad drive off. Then my uncle turned to me and said, "So, Tom. Here we are."
   "Yup," I said. "We’re here."
   "It’s nice to see you after all these years."
   "Uh, you too."
   "You look exactly how your father looked when he was your age. Maybe you look like me, too. What do you think?" He turned his head from side to side, showing me his profile.
   I stared at my uncle’s face, searching for some connection between him and my father and myself, and finally I said, "I think we might have the same nose."
   "Of course we do," said Uncle Harvey. "It’s the Trelawney nose. Passed from generation unto generation. Without this nose, you can’t be a Trelawney. Now let’s go inside."
   His apartment was on the fourth floor. As we trudged up the stairs together, Uncle Harvey said, "There is one thing I have to warn you about. I didn’t want to tell your father. I thought he might be upset. But you’re not going to mind, are you?"
   "Depends what it is," I said.
   "Give me a chance and I’ll tell you. When your father rang, I said you could stay in my flat, and you can. The only thing is, I won’t actually be here. I’ve got to go abroad. On urgent business. But you can look after yourself, can’t you?"
   "No problem," I said.
   "Are you sure?"
   "Oh, yeah. I’ll be fine."
   "You’ll have a wonderful time." He opened the door of his apartment and led me inside. "This is the perfect place for a bachelor. Treat it as your own. Invite friends round. Have parties. It’s all yours. Does that sound OK?"
   "That sounds great," I said.
   "Good. I did try and explain this to your father, but he got so cross with me, I had to say I’d change my plans."
   "He’s been looking forward to this vacation for fifteen years," I explained. "He and Mom haven’t been away together without kids since Grace was born. Not even for a weekend."
   "That’s what he said. I didn’t think he’d be very happy about you staying here alone—"
   "He wouldn’t."
   "—so I thought we needn’t tell him. Is that terrible?"
   "No," I said. "That’s fine."
   "You really don’t mind?"
   "When you gotta go, you gotta go."
   "I’m glad you see it like that, Tom. Strictly speaking, you’re probably a bit young to be left alone, aren’t you?"
   "I’ll be fine," I said, already imagining how I would spend a week alone in New York City. And then, not wanting to discuss whether it was actually legal to leave me by myself in an apartment for a week, I asked, "Where are you going?"
   "Peru," said my uncle.
   "Wow. Cool. What are you doing there?"
   "Oh, it’s a long story."
   "I’ve got time."
   "It’s also a secret."
   "I won’t tell anyone—I promise."
   Uncle Harvey shook his head. "I’m sorry, Tom. You might be my nephew, but I hardly know you. How could I possibly trust you with such an important secret?"
   "We could do a deal," I said.
   "A deal? What kind of deal?"

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    Posted February 2, 2013



    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2014

    Based on the last 3 reviews... --jedi1899

    I can tell that they're all boys. I'm a girl( like tomboy) and this book was absolutely excellent. Anyone would love it... unless you are into like the sarah dessen and twilight junk. Then , never mind. A call out to all reluctant reader boys out there! Reading is epic! Like this book. Try it out, I think it will be a hit.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2013



    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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