Ruby and the Pen

Ruby and the Pen

Ruby and the Pen











Ruby and the Pen

David Lawrence

Cherie Dignam

EK Books, 2023

280pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


Ever since her husband died, Ruby’s mum has tried to manage her grief with a series of boyfriends, each weirder than the last.  Ruby has named the current one Dodgy Dave and not just because he is sending her to boarding school in another state. Grounded and confined to her room, Ruby sneaks out to her favourite markets one last time to sell some of her cartoons and have a little pocket money for the trip, and through a series of mysterious circumstances comes home with an unusual old fountain pen, inscribed with the words manibus futuri meaning  “the future is in your hands. “

Being an excellent cartoonist, Ruby is fascinated by the pen but it is not until she gets to her new school and is being bullied by students and staff alike that she discovers it powers – whatever she draws comes true. But while she is able to protect herself from the bullies through her drawing, she discovers that Dodgy Dave and Mr Lemon, the principal, are in collusion in a very dodgy plan and it is going to take more than the stroke of a pen to disrupt it.  And although that leads her to making some friends, she also finds that there are things like relationships that need more work than a funny/nasty drawing.

With its Trunchbull-like characters and the theme of kids triumphing over adults, this is an engaging read that despite its humour in both text and illustrations, has some powerful undertones about relationships and how they can be much more complex to make and maintain than just having a magic wand to fix problems.

And to cap it off, it concludes with Ruby throwing her pen into the sea and it being purchased, again from a mysterious market stall, by a boy named Xander who loves to draw superheroes

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