Thursday 25 January 2024

Xander and the Pen

Xander and the Pen by David Lawrence. Illustrated by Cherie Dignam (EK Publishing). PB RRP $16.99 ISBN: 9781922539403

Reviewed by Kerry Gittins

Xander’s life is 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 deserves 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.

However, 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 must 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.

Recommended for ages 9+ years.


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