One night, soon after we entered the tropics, an awful storm burst upon our ship. The first squall of wind carried away two of our masts, and left only the foremast standing. There was no room for me upon the lifeboat; but being left behind saved my life — and the lives of Peterkin and Jack Martin, my two companions.

“Come, boys,” said Jack Martin in a grave tone as we stood on the quarterdeck awaiting our fate — “You see it is impossible that the little boat can reach the shore, crowded with men.” He had us take hold of a loose oar, and guided us to shelter on a deserted coral isle. . . . . . . and that is the beginning of my harrowing tale.

The novel was still considered a classic for English primary school children in the early 20th century.