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About the Author: Ben wrote his first book, Weirdo, when he was nine years old. The Magic Pencil followed soon after at age ten. The true point of difference in Ben's books is that they are written by a child, for children. Through a child's eyes and with a child's voice.
What an extraordinary accomplishment for a ten-year-old. To write a
story is hard, to write a long, novel length story is even harder.
And yet that is exactly what Ben has done. As it says on the cover,
his story is an action-packed adventure where the hero and his
friends blitz from one dangerous situation to the next on a quest
to save the world from destruction.
It all starts when Bob finds an innocent-looking pencil (innocent but for the piece of tin foil attached) which turns out to be magic - anything it draws becomes real. Which in turn means a gang of bad people want it for their own dastardly plans. Bob is soon on the run to keep the pencil safe, aided by his friends and a strange but helpful Old Man.
Their adventure is full of rockets, explosions, time travel, dinosaurs, rescues and space travel, and along the way the adventurers meet the Queen, a pharaoh and Einstein. Eventually they return home just in the nick of time to prevent the baddies from destroying the planet. Whew!
Full of imaginative scenarios, this is a children's story written by a child and as such features much of the things they love - action, narrow escapes, good guys and bad guys, and lots of high energy. When it comes to writing, a lot of new writers tend to forget that they need a plot with a beginning, middle and most importantly, an end, however this is not a trap that Ben has fallen into - his plot follows a good thread with mounting action and a nicely closed loop at the end. He has also done a fine job of dealing with multiple characters and keeping them all in the right place at the right time.
The book is self-published with illustrations by Ben's father, Robert Spies. The cover is well designed, brightly coloured and eye-catching, and overall the design and finished product are great, showing that a lot of effort has gone into creating this project. Kudos to Ben's parents for encouraging and supporting his writing passion by turning his work into a real, live book.
As an author, Ben has made a very good start. It takes a massive amount of commitment to see a story to the end and to have done it twice is fantastic. It is wonderful to see a young boy who loves writing and this enjoyment shone through his work. My advice to him is to keep reading, keep learning and please, please keep writing.
Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen for the New Zealand Booksellers