Friday, May 1, 2015

The Red Pencil

Cover image for The red pencil
The Red Pencil
By Andrea Davis Pinkney
Illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Little Brown and Company, 2014. Fiction. 308 p.

Amira lives in a farm town in Darfur.  She helps her mother care for their farm animals and her younger siblings.  One day the Janjaweed come, burn her town, and kill her father. She must flee with her family to a refugee camp. Although the camp is crowded and the food and living conditions are horrible, she gets her first chance to learn to read and write and first begins to dream of going to school.  This is a very difficult and serious topic for children, but Pinkney makes the story child accessible by writing in free verse.  The poetic form allows Pinkney to show the reader only brief flashes of disturbing images, and linger on descriptions of life on Amira's farm and in the camp.  One of the themes of the book is the power of art to heal the soul.  The story is illustrated with black and white drawings, done in a child-like hand, that show how Amira sees her world as she draws with her red pencil. This is a good choice for an older grade school or middle school age reader who likes stories of children who overcome real life trials.

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