Xander’s life is pretty typical of that of a 12-year-old boy. He has two best friends – Cat and Tee-Jay, a loving mum and dad, and a younger sister Phoebe who always finds the positives in everything – despite being in a wheelchair. He wishes he could be brave and courageous like his sister and the superheroes he loves to draw – but he isn’t. He wishes he could stand up to the boys that bully him at school – the Clagg brothers aka the ‘Bruise Brothers’ – but he doesn’t. He wishes he could solve the mystery of why the alpacas on Cat’s farm are dying – but he can’t.
Until one day he finds a golden ink pen and discovers that anything he draws with this magic pen comes true. He defeats the Clagg Brothers, enables his sister to walk again, helps his father win a fishing contest that gives the family more money than they’ve ever had, and comes first in a school math competition, even though his friend Tee-Jay deserved the prize more.
But each time something wonderful happens it quickly turns into something awful. He alienates his friends, his once loving mum and dad are no longer speaking to each other, and Xander himself has changed under the influence of the pen. Instead of the sunny, easy-going person he once was Xander is now bitter and spiteful.
But sister Phoebe comes to the rescue with her truthfulness and unwavering support. Xander is soon making amends for situations that went awry. The mystery of the poisoned water and dying alpacas on Cat’s farm is the last problem needing to be solved. Xander knows he can’t do it alone and that to solve the mystery, he has to earn back the trust of his friends Cat and Tee-Jay and together find the solution.
David Lawrence tackles some deep and serious issues in this story with warmth and compassion. Disability, bullying, greed, and dishonesty are woven into the story in a way that is age appropriate and meaningful for readers. Cherie Dignam’s black and white illustrations enhance the story and provide the perfect visual insight into the main characters.
This is Book 2 of The Pen series.
Teaching themes could include fantasy, families, bullying, communities, friendship, greed, problem solving, disability, trust and courage.
Find out more about David Lawrence
Find out more about Cherie Dignam
Published by EK Books an imprint of Exisle Publishing
Release date: 14 November 2023
Recommended for ages 9 to 13
Can you ride a bicycle? Do you remember how exhilarating it felt pumping the pedals and taking off down the street? In this new book by the 2021 Crystal Kite winner Valerie Bolling, we follow a young girl as she attempts to ride her bicycle for the very first time. With help and encouragement from her Dad, she is off and riding until. . . uh-oh, look out! There's a slip, a wobble and a fall. That hurt! After a healing hug from Dad, the young girl has to decide whether to get back on the bike and try again - or not. Knowing that Dad is right there beside her helps make the decision easy, and soon she is back up and soaring! With sparse, rhyming text, every word counts in this heartfelt and empowering story. Coretta Scott King honoree Kaylani Jaunita's illustrations are vibrant and fun, and highlight perfectly the angst and exuberance of trying something for the first time. Together We Ride is a wonderful celebration of family, courage, trust, and that amazing feeling of freedom when you spread your wings and fly for the first time!
Use this in the classroom to explore themes of trust, family, resilience, risk taking and transport.
Find out more about Valerie Bolling
Find out more about Kaylani Juanita
Click here for the author interview on Blog Bites
Release date April 26, 2022. Published by Chronicle Books
Recommended for ages 3 - 5
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