This book was written for "Boy's Own Paper" shortly after that magazine started. The plan was to write a book illustrating how it might be possible for any very ordinary little boy joining the Navy in the lowest rating--powder monkey--and ascend to the very highest rank--admiral. It had been done before, in the separate cases of Benbow and Hopson, and there was no reason why it shouldn't happen again. A powder monkey was so called because his job in manning the guns was to run from time to time to fetch more powder whenever it was needed. Since the boys were small they afforded little target for the enemy's shot, so they tended to survive an engagement. Just as well, for their job was indispensable. In this book three boys join up in the same batch. They have the usual Kingston-style adventures, but only one of them makes it to the quarter deck to become a midshipman. This was probably the hardest step for any of them, but it was his bravery, honesty and good manners that won for him the necessary attention. At the end of the book there is a pathetic scene where we meet again the boy who did least well. According to Wikipedia: "William Henry Giles Kingston (28 February 1814 - 5 August 1880), writer of tales for boys, was born in London, but spent much of his youth in Oporto, where his father was a merchant. His first book, The Circassian Chief, appeared in 1844. His first book for boys, Peter the Whaler, was published in 1851, and had such success that he retired from business and devoted himself entirely to the production of this kind of literature, in which his popularity was deservedly great; and during 30 years he wrote upwards of 130 tales, including The Three Midshipmen (1862), The Three Lieutenants (1874), The Three Commanders (1875), The Three Admirals (1877), Digby Heathcote, etc. He also conducted various papers, including The Colonist, and Colonial Magazine and East India Review. He was also interested in emigration, volunteering, and various philanthropic schemes. For services in negotiating a commercial treaty with Portugal he received a Portuguese knighthood, and for his literary labours a Government pension."