The self-published author talks about the magic of Birmingham’s hidden green spaces and how they inspired her new book, The Bee’s Knees
Ruby Maxine’s first children’s book, The Bee’s Knees launched in April and it’s selling well – the first batch sold out quickly and the feedback from parents and teachers has been strong. Ruby has been writing for as long as she can remember, but like lots of people it took a redundancy to give her the push to go for her dreams.
Self-publishing is no mean feat. The publishing process is complex, but Ruby was adamant she wanted to take it on in its entirety and she’s pleased she did. Written and illustrated by Ruby, on the surface The Bee’s Knees is a fun book for children aged six to eight years but it goes deeper than that. The book gently explores themes such as the power of perspective, fostering a kind inner voice, self-esteem and empowerment. The main character, Lulu Bee who turns negative feelings into a journey of self-love, inner peace and confidence thanks to a little help from a friend.
Set in Moseley Bog, it’s a very Brummie affair celebrating the beauty of the bog through gorgeous illustrations of its features including the tree tunnels, green bog pond and buttercup meadow. A Brummie through and through, Ruby was keen to showcase the city’s natural beauty and green spaces. She’s eco-conscious, so the books and packaging are made from recycled materials in the UK with one per cent of the profits donated to the World Wildlife Fund. Ruby found her ethical approach didn’t sit pretty with Amazon who print on demand to their own specifications. When we spoke, Ruby had withdrawn the book from the platform because she wasn’t pleased with the quality or the eco-credentials saying, ‘it was nowhere near recycled’.
Another one per cent from the book is donated to mental health charity Mind which is close to Ruby’s heart. She says: “I wrote this story, drawing from personal experience and mental health advice I’ve been given over the years, to help children and parents who encounter stress or anxiety.” She adds: “When we as adults discover issues that are beyond our control it can be so unsettling. It’s a feeling that children will be discovering for the first time.” Techniques for self-care that Ruby has learnt feature throughout the story.
Growing up in Brum, Ruby was picked up by Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Dance Track programme enabling her to train with professional dancers through her youth. She even appeared on an episode of Brum. Ruby’s always been a book worm. She says: “As a child I relied on books a lot for peace and escapism and just to feel safer in my own skin. I want to create that too, make more of those safe spaces and help kids figure out how to be happy people in a difficult world.”
Making writing and illustrating books her career is Ruby’s goal. She says: “Inspiring youngsters and making art that people enjoy. I’ve worked harder on this book than I’ve ever worked on anything and I just dream of it resonating and being embraced. I hope that my creations can be another cool thing to have come out of this very special part of the world.”