Desert Isles & Pirate Islands examines the development of the island theme in nineteenth-century English juvenile fiction. The earliest island stories, Robinsonnades designed to teach both piety and natural history, gave way in mid-century to adventure stories with their primary emphasis on excitement and entertainment. By the end of the Victorian era, while elements of the Robinsonnade still featured in adventure fiction, the island story accommodated other traditions. It was particularly in the periodicals known as 'penny dreadfuls' that the island story became a lively and often lurid tale of pirates and their buried treasure.
The book contains a detailed 505-item bibliography of stories on the island theme appearing in England from 1788 to 1910. Sixty-five illustrations reproduced from contemporary children's books and periodicals depict typical characters, situations and motifs in this fiction.