Blog Tour: Rivet Boy by Barbara Henderson

Written by  Barbara Henderson
Interior Illustrations by Sandra McGowan
Published by Pokey Hat an imprint of Cranachan Publishing Limited

Thank you so much to Anne Glennie at Cranachan Publishing for inviting me to be part of the Blog Tour for Rivet Boy, and for providing me with an early copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Rivet Boy is an absolutely riveting historical adventure set in late Victorian Scotland:  a story of family and friendship; of courage and of danger that held me enthralled throughout.

12-year-old John Nicol does not want to leave school, but he must in order to become the breadwinner for his family as his Dey can no longer work and the charitable money being forwarded to the family following the death of his father 12 years before is coming to an end as John can now legally support his family. 

John and his mother take a train to the bridge being built on the Forth River where she intends to ask Mr Arrol, who is in charge of the construction, for a job for her son.  She is left disappointed when she is told that he is busy and does not deal with hiring.  However, John is not prepared to accept a rejection and his mother’s disappointment and, after stating his case to Mr Arrol, he offers him a job working on the construction of the Forth Bridge.  Not only does John know this is dangerous work, he has a fear of heights which makes working on the bridge a frightening prospect, but he has no choice as he must earn money to support his family.

Whilst initially John is not expected to work up on the bridge, it is not long before he finds himself having to face his fear of heights as he joins Cain Murdoch’s Rivet Gang who are far from welcoming.  Will John be able to survive up on the bridge when faced with a threatening gang?  What danger awaits him as he climbs the bridge ladders to work as a rivet boy?

Wow!  This is a real page-turner of an adventure that kept me utterly gripped throughout as the dangers of working on the bridge became all too real and as the sense of threat and peril escalated for John and those working on the bridge, leading to a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat adventure that was unputdownable.

John is an incredibly sympathetic character who most definitely found his way into my heart.  He has to give up his school life, which he enjoyed, in order to support his family by taking on an incredibly dangerous job, a job which has seen others fall to their death.  He shows incredible courage, resilience and determination when facing his fears and standing up to, and for, others, forging his own path to a better future.

John gains great support and comfort from a wonderful group of friends.   He meets Cora on the construction site.  She is a strong-willed, outgoing girl who wants to become an engineer, and proves herself to be a supportive, much-needed friend for John.  John also has a rather unusual and adorable friend in Rusty, an injured squirrel who he rescues from the rail tracks and who visits him at work.  Whilst John can no longer go to school, he does visit the new Carnegie Library where he meets the librarian, Mr Peebles, who feeds his reading habit during his “book o’clock” evening reading time, and who encourages him in his love of autograph collecting, a new Victorian hobby that has come from America.

Whilst this compelling story immerses us in the life of John Nicol, it also gives a fascinating insight into late Victorian Scottish society’s social and engineering history.  I was given an understanding of the final stages of the construction of the iconic Forth Bridge with the scale of engineering prowess, but also an awareness of the terrible loss of life, and the fortitude shown by the briggers.  As a teacher, I found it heart-breaking that John was denied an education due to his family circumstances, but loved that he had Mr Peebles and the Carnegie Library!  The heart-warming ending is just perfect! 

I loved reading the Author’s Note where she shares her inspiration for the story based on real-life events and her association with the Forth Bridge.  She also shares a collection of wonderful photographs from the construction of the bridge to some of the famous Victorians mentioned in the story to the Carnegie Library – and even a picture of a young author visiting the bridge!

Rivet Boy reaches dizzying heights of brilliance:  an absolutely unmissable, inspirational historical adventure that will take its readers on a thrilling, moving and extraordinary adventure. 

Please do check out the other stops on the Blog Tour with the fantastic bloggers below:

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