A section of the cover of the book 'Marion and the Forty Thieves' showing some of the characters on a boat.
Marion and the Forty Thieves cover detail.

Marion and the Forty Thieves by Sarah Luke

Readers will embark on a thrilling journey through turn-of-the-century Sydney in a new middle-grade adventure novel. Marion and the Forty Thieves offers an immersive and historically accurate experience of a floating boys' school anchored in Sydney Harbour during the late 1800s.

Marion, the daughter of the principal, finds herself as the sole girl among a ship full of ragtag schoolboys. Her world takes a dangerous turn when she discovers a new student, Alexander Walker, planning to rendezvous with the notorious Forty Thieves gang. Determined to uncover their sinister plans, Marion fearlessly ventures into the treacherous Rocks neighbourhood.

Based on the real-life Marion Neitenstein, this middle-grade novel offers an entertaining insight into an unusual 19th-century institution for neglected boys. Author Sarah Luke meticulously researched primary sources to create an authentic portrayal of Sydney at that time. The book is accompanied by real photographs from the ship, portraits of Sobraon boys and images of Sydney street scenes from the era.

Featuring a strong female heroine and a diverse cast of characters, Marion and the Forty Thieves is set to captivate young readers with its blend of history, adventure, and intrigue. Marion and the Forty Thieves will be released in July 2024.

About the author 

Sarah Luke is a teacher and historian. She likes researching in archives, finding information about people from the past, and writing non-fiction books about them. At other times she is inspired to write historical fiction stories, so that people who merely ghost through archives also have a chance to be remembered. Sarah likes exploring old places in Sydney – particularly sandstone palaces and mossy, dark graveyards. Marion and the Forty Thieves is her first children’s book.

Additional Information 

The front cover of the book 'Marion and the Forty Thieves'.

Images for media use are available for download via Dropbox.


Mirelle O'Mara, Media Liaison, National Library of Australia

M: 0401 226 697

E: media@nla.gov.au