I took the pencil. I was a little nervous, but I loved how it felt in my hand. Ataata pulled out a piece of paper for me to draw on. I knew it was the only piece of paper we had.
I began drawing – it was so much fun and so different from drawing on the frozen window! I quickly forgot about being nervous and just kept going. It was so neat to see my drawings taking shape on the page. I drew pictures of seals and caribou.
Susan loves watching her mother write letters to other camps with the one special pencil they have, a well-used and tiny one that is very dear to Susan’s mom. One afternoon as her mom sets out to help with the birth of a new baby, Susan and her siblings are left with their dad who gets them to do all kinds of activities. But the day passes, and they run out of things to do, and so Susan’s dad does what they never imagined he would: he goes to the wooden box of important things and pulls out the pencil! As the kids draw, write and the pencil gets smaller, Susan becomes worried. What will her mom think?
The Pencil is an incredible look into a life not many people get to see or experience. While the setting of the igloo and the Inuit customs set the story apart and elevate it to something unique, the experience of children being bored, eager to explore their surroundings and especially the things that are ‘’forbidden” to them is very much universal.
The fact that the story is based on the author’s own experiences grounds it and pulls the reader right into the cozy home, making it easy to imagine the sounds, smells and sights of that one afternoon. The illustrations are beautiful, a limited color palette only serving to accentuate the sketch-like quality of the lines that seem to have been drawn by the same pencil that is at the center of the story. A wonderful message about using resources wisely while not letting go of your imagination, The Pencil is a must-read for kids and adults alike.
Luiza Salazar is published author of four YA novels in her home country of Brazil. She currently works as a bookseller and is getting her Master of Arts in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia.