Life has always been tough for May and Gus Lavender. Their father went away to sea, never to return, and now their mother has fallen victim to the typhus sweeping through Liverpool. Regarded as orphans by the authorities, the siblings are sent to the Brownlow Hill Workhouse.
Like all workhouses, Brownlow is the last resort for the poor and the destitute. So May and Gus will have to rely on each other more than ever if they are to survive the hardships to come.