The Pencil

“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.”

The pencil (drawn, naturally, in pencil) is the only thing in existence until he gets going and creates a boy, called Banjo.  Banjo asks for a dog, called Bruce.   Bruce asks for a cat, called Mildred.  Then the pencil draws a house for them to live in, and a road for the house to stand on, and a park for them to play in.  When they complain that the food they’ve asked for is black and white he draws a paintbrush, called Kitty, and together they create an entire world of people and places.

All goes well until the ungrateful characters start complaining about the way they have been drawn.  Banjo’s little sister doesn’t like her trainers. His Dad doesn’t like his ears.  To placate them, the little pencil draws a rubber, who gets on with correcting things. Unfortunately he too becomes overexcited and starts rubbing out everything that Kitty and the pencil have drawn and painted…

This is a hugely creative piece of writing and bounces off the page like an animation.  Bruce Ingman’s drawings are exactly like the pencil sketches they are supposed to be and the mix of graphite and crudely painted illustrations reflects the story perfectly.  The ‘chase’ sequence, where the pencil draws walls and cages to try and escape from the rubber, is brilliantly envisaged and cleverly executed.  Even the ‘rubbings’ from the renegade rubber are included in the printing!  The plot is surreal but absorbing and should inspire many young artists and writers; it celebrates the joy of creating your own universe.

This book would be best-received by preschoolers and school-age children who can understand the concept of drawing as narrative, and perhaps even create their own stories after reading it. It is also well worth looking out for Michael McIntyre’s reading on the CBeebies Bedtime Story.

A surreal but inspirationally creative book.

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