Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Cover image for The red pencilAmira 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. The recorded book was read by the author.  She does a pretty good job, and she has a nice, expressive, resonant voice but part of me wanted to hear a more authentic African accent. Overall, it was a good book and I can see why it got a lot of attention last year, but I am not sure who I would give it to.  "Here, cute little girl, here is a story about a girl, just your age, who survives a mass genocide, only to end up in a refugee camp."  My own daughter went through a stage in third grade where she wanted to read holocaust survivor books, so I guess there is someone out there under 13 who might like this book. 308 p.

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