It’s 23 October 1821 and convict William Swallow stands on the deck of the Malabar for muster. He is wearing a canary yellow convict uniform and his legs are chained. He’s just completed the 121-day sea voyage from London to Hobart Town, but his wild and audacious adventures have barely begun.
He’ll soon ditch the convict uniform and the chains, take part in a mutiny, become a pirate captain and fool the world in what just might be the most outrageous and unbelievable true story in Australia’s convict history.
'Simon Barnard’s Hogarthian yarn of cunning and hapless convict pirates is no less absurd for being true: the kind of slapstick lunacy that so often passes for actual history. Wonderfully conceived, surprisingly original, terrifically entertaining. Three cheers for Gaolbird!'
‘Stunning… clever…engaging… remarkable… A hugely entertaining look at a moment in our history and a valuable resource for teachers with its depth and cross-cultural potential.’
Magpies: Talking About Books for Children
'Never has there been a children’s book quite as celebratory of Australia’s larrikin culture as Gaolbird. This is a tale so delightfully raucous that one can’t help but chuckle at the antics of the plucky convict known as William Swallow as he sails the southern seas.
As the title would suggest, the infamous runaway convict William Swallow and his fellow pirates have been reimagined here as yellow canaries, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the canary-yellow prison uniforms that convicts were made to wear. Over the course of this book, readers will follow his remarkable true story of capture and escape, wonderfully told by Simon Barnard and replete with fantastic illustrations that bring to mind the zany wackiness of the best Looney Tunes cartoons. This book is full of the stuff that Aussie legends are made of and it deserves a spot on every kid’s bookshelf!'
Angus & Robertson Bookworld
'This beautifully told and illustrated story of William Swallow and convict Popjoy is an historical adventure with a difference'
National Trust Australia
'This is an exciting book with a lot going on, both visually and in the story. Readers will enjoy this highly entertaining insight into two incredible characters from Australia’s convict history.'
‘A boisterous slice of Australian colonial history…the visual style will appeal to lovers of Horrible Histories or the ever-increasing range of graphic novels.’
Books + Publishing
'Convicts, pirates, mutiny — this book has it all’
Kid’s Book Review
‘The utterly true tale of escaped convict turned pirate William Walker. There’s grim stuff here but the neat illustrations, regular fact bombs and remarkable tale carry the whole show along.’
New Zealand Herald