Friday, January 17, 2014

The Pencil - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

     If you're still looking for a book for the upcoming MLK holiday, check out last week's PPBF post-- then come right back here!
     I have read a lot of buzz about 2013's wordless picture book by Aaron Becker titled Journey. And rightfully so. Journey's lush illustrations take children on an imaginative trip through space and time. When the main character picks up a red marker and draws her way out of her world, my first thought was of Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon. But Becker's detailed, colorful drawings are a new beast.
     Even with all of it's beauty, I have to say that I missed some of the emotion of Johnson's classic masterpiece in Becker's book. And I began to think of another book I had read before but never reviewed. That book, Allan Ahlberg's take on the imaginative "drawn" journey, is my pick for this week's picture book review.

TITLE: The Pencil

AUTHOR: Allan Ahlberg

ILLUSTRATOR: Bruce Ingman

PUBLISHER: Candlewick Press, 2008

FICTION
THEMES: Creation, Creativity, Identity

OPENING: (Before the title page) Once there was a pencil, a lonely little pencil, and nothing else. It lay there, which was nowhere in particular, for a long, long time. Then one day that little pencil made a move, shivered slightly, quivered somewhat. . . and began to draw.

SYNOPSIS: When a pencil draws itself a world, with people and animals, the new inhabitants of its world aren't perfectly happy with how they've been rendered. And so pencil introduces eraser. But pencil has to come up with a new solution when eraser starts rubbing out everyone and everything that pencil has created.

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK:  I'm drawn (pun!) to the quirky humor of this book. The lonely pencil's creations push boundaries, demanding names. Eeven insects and inanimate objects want "people" names (Don't you smile reading about a paintbrush named Kitty?!). The black and white illustrations are especially childlike in quality, capturing the pencil's innocent spirit perfectly. By the time the eraser turns on its creator, I felt the tension, believing anything--good or bad--could happen in this world. And quoting from the book "of course, of course!" there is a happy ending.
Pencil's first "creations"

Activities/Resources: For older readers, compare and contrast the three books I talk about in this post. Discuss which is their favorite, and why. Classroom ideas and activities covering the areas of English, Math, Art and Science for ages 3-12 are found on Walker Book's website here in a curriculum guide. Learn how pencils are made at pencils.com. This site also has a host of pencil-related lesson plans to check out including history, drawing, math and recycling/art. Someone posted a Youtube video of themselves reading The Pencil. It was a bit shrieky in places for my taste, but you can "read" The Pencil here. The book is 48 pages long so the reading takes ten minutes. The Art of Education website has posted a video describing a simple art activity to do with this book (as well as two others). There is a flash video 2 minute interview of Allan Ahlberg by the BBC that I enjoyed tremendously. I think readers of all ages can enjoy taking a pencil and seeing where it takes them--would it be words? Images? A combination? Tell the pencil's story, then your own!

Thank you for stopping by! If you know these three books, do YOU have a favorite? Is there another you would add to the compare/contrast list?
I appreciate your comments. :)




30 comments:

  1. I adore this book. It was one of the very first reviews I wrote when I set up my blog three years ago.

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    1. And I'm kind of sad when spectacular "old" books don't get continuing press. Trying to do something about that!

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  2. I've never read this one. I'll have to look for it!

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  3. What a unique story. I love quirky. It sounds like there is suspense that will engage children. I particularly like the activities you suggested for using the book in the classroom. And, the video was great! Love the hook on the first page.

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    1. It is suspenseful, funny and leaves you with a smile. A hug-worthy book.

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  4. I love, love, love Journey! And I was not familiar with Pencil. Thanks for introducing me!

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    1. I love Journey for the art. I love Pencil for the whole package.

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  5. Haven't seen "The Pencil", I am anxious to get a copy now.

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    1. Deep breaths. No anxiety allowed at Noodling Words. :)

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  6. Sounds like one I need to add to my list!

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    1. You really need to. Add it at the top!

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  7. Thanks for this suggestion, Wendy. I'm assuming you have read Dog Loves Drawing by Louise Yates? It's a fun read and goes along with this theme.

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    1. See-I had forgotten Dog Loves Drawing! Thanks for the reminder. :)

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  8. Yeah, we know a good team when we see one! I'll go link you review to the mention of it in my post today.

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    1. Ooh! I will have to do the same. And Joanna Marple did Journey. There must have been something in the water (hopefully not from WV).

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  9. I borrowed Journey from the library and *gasp* I think I returned it without reading it…I can't remember why; I think it was an accident. I have those moments (more and more). Anyway, LOVE Harold and the Purple Crayon, but I also haven't seen or read The Pencil yet.

    "A paintbrush named Kitty" needs a whole story of its own! ;)

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    1. Some of the illustrators out there should be on your suggestion, Teresa. :)

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  10. Well, I've not ever seen this one either! How could that be?! I'll be looking for it for sure. And I love how there is always so much serendipity on the PPBF list! Connections are fun. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. It's easy to miss good ones--there are just so many! The PPBF group is a great resource.

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  11. I just put this on my list at the library. And it is too funny that Julie picked Allman's HOORAY FOR BREAD.

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    1. We're our own little Twilight Zone of writers. :)

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  12. Harold is one of my old favorites, and Journey is one of my new darlings, so I guess this is a no-brainer for me. Thanks for the introduction.

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    1. I think you'll enjoy it, Joanne. Thanks for stopping by!

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  13. This author and illustrator make a great team. I believe I've read this one before. I say believe, because the story is just like one I've read ... I loved Journey. I enjoyed Harold. They seem like such different stories to me. Recent discussions about the comparisons of the two books, have been informative and educational for me as a writer and a reader (seems like every discussion mentions several more comparative titles).

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    1. It is interesting to see how they are alike--any yet very different.

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  14. I love the sound of this book! I have read comparative books and don't remember their names. Harold and the Purple Crayon not withstanding. Thanks for re introducing this one to us, Wendy. I'll check it out of the library on Sunday.

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    1. Every library should have it. My decree.

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  15. This looks like a great book. Though it would have been nice if it were all in color (like the cover) or just black and white (like the inside).

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    1. It's black and white until the pencil draws Kitty the paintbrush! Then it's color until (oops! Don't want to give the plot away :) ) It all makes sense when you see the book.

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