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4.8 out of 5 stars50
4.8 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 20 March 2009
This is a fantastic picture book in which a lonely pencil begins to draw, draws several characters (a boy, Banjo, a dog and a cat all of whom you might recognise from The Runaway Dinner) and a town. Up until this point, the illustrations are black and white as if drawn only by a heavy pencil. The pencil then draws a paintbrush and from here on the illustrations then include bold bright colours.
The pencil, fulfilling the requests of the characters he has created, works with the paintbrush to fill out the whole town, but trouble begins to brew when some of the drawings have not come out quite perfect - ears too big, ridiculous trainers etc. So the pencil draws a rubber which sets to work correcting things. At first, the rubber is helpful but he becomes increasingly naughty, with wholesale deletion of people, scenes and even the paintbrush until all that is left is the rubber and the pencil....
If you are 4, it's worrying for a few pages as the pencil tries to escape, trying various ways to evade the destructive eraser. Fortunately, he then comes up with a clever plan, the world is restored and there's a heart-warming ending.
The pictures are warm, friendly and fun. They are bursting with life and energy throughout, and have a slightly unfinished feel which is particularly in keeping with the narrative. There's also light humour in both the words and the pictures - for example, my son (4) laughs when the chair is erased from underneath Banjo, and welove little ant Allan.
This is not the first picture book I have come across where a pencil's activities are integral to the story (other great ones include Piggot: Gregory and the Magic Line and Browne: Bear Hunt) but it is an inspired and amusing take on this good premise and I thoroughly recommend it. I think this the third book that Ahlberg and Ingman have collaborated on, and the best in my opinion. Buy this first, and when you love it, come back for The Runaway Dinner.
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on 1 February 2009
This book is a gem! It's the story of a lonely pencil who draws people and animals to keep him company, giving them each names. All is lovely until he creates an over-excited rubber to remove a mistake. The rubber starts to rub out the whole of the pencil's creation....What can the pencil do to stop it but create ANOTHER rubber so the two erase eachother, leaving the pencil to recreate his world around him.

My summary does NOT do the story or lovely illustrations the justice they deserve! This book would be delightful shared with your own children but would make a suberb stimulus book for a literacy (or even philosphy/RE) lesson. What would children do if they could create anything? What happens when what we create turns against us. The story may be about a pencil, but the potential for developing thoughts and ideas is immense.

Superb. I can't recommend it highly enough!!!!
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on 31 December 2012
A very novel idea which really appealed to my grandsons, aged 4 and 6. I must have read it at least 10 times in the week I spent with them at christmas. The elder one now draws a picture of someone or something and thinks what they would want next, and why. The drawings become characters and decide to go places, thus developing story telling skills.
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on 4 June 2014
This is a story about a pencil who draws things which end up in the story including a paintbrush and erasers. It's a great idea but there just isn't enough interesting happening and it's very wordy - lots of names of different people and objects to remember. My three year and a half year old really loved 'Harold and the Purple Crayon' which is the same sort of concept (and which I'd recommend instead for a three year old) so I thought he might like this, but it fell completely flat, and I have to admit that I found it rather boring to read. So I'm a bit puzzled as to all the rave reviews - maybe there is some sort of sweet spot age where the idea of the pencil drawing the paintbrush and eraser is really fascinating?
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on 28 November 2014
When my daughter brought this book home from school we couldn't wait to read it. Although she enjoyed it 'on its own terms' as a children's story, I was left reeling from this ancient/modern dissection of the human psyche.

"The Pencil" is a story that provokes questions concerning our deepest fears. As the eponymous writing implement grows in action and confidence, so he create a world which both thrills and threatens him. He draws a boy and the boy comes to life, but who is he REALLY? The pencil's creations both delight and demand. They require names and then food. They run riot and the power struggle that ensues is as old as time itself.

Soon it becomes evident that the pencil cannot provide all that his creations need. He cannot draw in colour. THIS is the most profound moment in Ahlberg's work. Presumably this had not occurred to the pencil before as he knew nothing else. As has been said about world views, we do not see them; we see through them.

Yet, ironically, it is a further creation that enables colour to come into the world. How the pencil cannot create colour, yet CAN create a paintbrush who colours is a question that is never resolved; and neither should it be. Some things are best left unexplored; mystery is as essential as knowledge.

I could continue but suffice it to say that the struggle to maintain order while allowing the creations to be all that they are is a consistent theme running through the book. The leitmotif of the creature turning short term solution to long term problem is one upon which we should all reflect.

The ending is a masterstroke of quick-witted thinking in the face of overwhelming chaos. By the end, all seems calm but the reader is left wondering whether the pencil really has established order, or whether a new challenge will face him the next day for which he is unprepared.

Like I said, my daughter loved this book, though probably missed out on some of the more subtle undercurrents highlighted in this review.
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on 10 April 2010
This incredible book - written by Allan Ahlberg in his customary conversational style and illustrated by the genius that is Bruce Ingman - tells the story of a sad, lonely little pencil who creates the whole world, assisted by the lovely Kitty, his paintbrush friend.

In this story Ahlberg introduces Banjo Cannon (also of 'The Runaway Dinner')and his friend the dog ('What's my name?) Bruce, the cat Mildred (who Kitty DOESN'T colour in as she's black and white) and Sebastian the football and many other very funny characters, who are all drawn by the pencil and coloured in by Kitty the paintbrush.

Read what happens when THE RUBBER turns bad and how the whole mess was cleared up.

What a wonderful story - we still read it nearly every night even though we've had it for months!
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on 20 September 2009
It's a truly lovely and unusual book. My 3.5 year old loves it, as well as me. I think I buy it for her (we got ours from the library), and I think it will probably entertain her well into the future.
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on 11 April 2012
I wish this book had been around when I was a child.

I would encourage every parent to try this book. Allan Ahlberg is an excellent writer and the illustrations work perfectly alongside the text.
The story is imaginative and flows quite naturally from the pencil's drawings. I won't go into detail but there is a battle between the pencil and a rubber, in which the pencil triumphs. It manages to be both amusing and introduces some clear links between action and consequence.

Ahlberg also has another book, The Runaway Dinner, which closely ties in with this both in terms of characters and style. The language is less simplistic than in most children's books and it's a pleasure to read aloud.

I bought this for a 3yr old, who already has (and adores, the equally good) The Runaway Dinner. Predictably, it has been very popular. I would expect this book to appeal to a broad age range from three upwards. Easily one of my favourite books for children.
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on 23 March 2011
This is a super little book for 3-6 year olds. The story is so clever and the children get very excited when, for example, the rubber arrives and deletes their previous story!
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on 3 October 2010
- both my 3 year old and 5 year old love it, I like all the inappropriate names given to small obscure things and the people who have pets names.
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