The Reluctant Rebel by Barbara Henderson

I adore Barbara Henderson’s children’s books and am thrilled to be part of the blog tour for her latest, The Reluctant Rebel.

You’ll find other books by Barbara featured here:

My Review of The Chessmen Thief here.

My review of Fir For Luck here (also one of my books of the year in 2016).

A smashing guest post from Barbara about Fir For Luck publication day here.

Another super post from Barbara about why a book launch matters to celebrate Punch here.

A guest post from Barbara about nature and my review of Wilderness Wars here.

A guest post about novels and novellas and my review of Black Water here.

My review of The Siege of Caerlaverock alongside a guest post from Barbara about Heraldic poetry hereThe Siege of Caerlaverock was also one of my 2020 Books of the Year.

Published by Luath on 30th May 2022, The Reluctant Rebel is available for purchase in all good bookshops including directly from the publisher here.

The Reluctant Rebel

There it is again, hope. The defeat and the despair I can stand, but it’s the hope that kills me, as if the Cause wasn’t lost, as if Father hadn’t died in vain. As if any one of us could possibly come out of this alive…

Following the death of his father, 13-year-old Archie MacDonald has lost faith in the Jacobite Cause. Having witnessed their clan’s terrible defeat at the Battle of Culloden, Archie and his feisty cousin Meg flee back to Lochaber to lie low.

Or so they think.

Until the fugitive Prince’s life depends on them.

When Prince Charles Edward Stuart looks to the people of Borrodale for help, will the young stable boy support the rebellion that has cost him so dearly?

With enemies closing in, the Prince’s fate now rests in the hands of a stable boy and a maid with a white cockade.

Who will survive this deadly game of hide-and-seek?

My Review of The Reluctant Rebel

Prince Charles Edward Stuart needs assistance.

The Reluctant Rebel is just fabulous and has all the hallmarks I’ve come to expect from Barbara Henderson’s brilliant writing for children.

Firstly, there’s a breath-takingly exciting plot that is steeped in historical accuracy that can only arise from meticulous research. The tone created through Archie’s first person account is spot on; it’s totally accessible to young readers and yet sounds so much part of the era of the book, bringing the era alive.

Particularly poignant at the moment, given current world events, The Reluctant Rebel gives relatable insight into why different sides fight and what the consequences are for those ordinary people caught up in conflict. I think it would be a perfect catalyst for discussion in both school and home. Barbara Henderson always gives a strong voice to the lowly of society, the servants and children, so that she affords them a status and respect young readers will love. Archie isn’t entirely convinced the cause is worth the losses suffered and through him the author illustrates that decisions are not always easy to make. I thought Barbara Henderson’s ability to be thought provoking in an accessible manner was absolutely spot on.

Themes of family, loyalty, grief and bravery are pinned to the narrative like the white cockade attached to Meg’s hair so that Barbara Henderson illustrates so effectively how helping and supporting those we care about is a valid, valiant activity. Through Archie and Meg the author conveys a morality that feels authentic without being preachy or patronising. There’s a real deftness of touch here that shows just how well the author understands her target audience.

Whilst The Reluctant Rebel is an exciting story for independent individual readers, it would make a superb book for a KS2 classroom. Steeped in history, brilliantly written in a way that models the effective use of description, tension and direct speech especially well, with an historical timeline and glossary included, there’s so much here to ignite a child’s imagination, to inspire and to explore.

In The Reluctant Rebel Barbara Henderson brings history to life magnificently. She’s a real talent and it’s a privilege to have read The Reluctant Rebel. I loved this story. Don’t miss out on it, whatever age you are!

About Barbara Henderson

Barbara Henderson has lived in Scotland since 1991, somehow acquiring an MA in English Language and Literature, a husband, three children and a shaggy dog along the way. Having tried her hand at working as a puppeteer, relief librarian and receptionist, she now teaches Drama part-time at secondary school.

Writing predominantly for children, Barbara won the Nairn Festival Short Story Competition in 2012, the Creative Scotland Easter Monologue Competition in 2013 and was one of three writers shortlisted for the Kelpies Prize 2013. In 2015, wins include the US-based Pockets Magazine Fiction Contest and the Ballantrae Smuggler’s Story Competition.

Follow Barbara on Twitter @scattyscribbler or Instagram for more information, and read her blog. You’ll also find her author page on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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