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
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. :)