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4.8 out of 5 stars
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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 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 12 December 2015
This is book is FANTASTIC!!! Very clever yet simple concept. Years down the line, we still love reading it!!
I also recommend The Runaway Dinner by Alan Ahlberg. Peekaboo is super too for younger kiddies.
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on 28 July 2015
A beautiful book, the illustrations are lovely and there's a gentle wittiness about it. Above all it has a bit more depth than many children's books. We took it on holiday and my 5yr old demanded it every night for the week, usually when he gets focussed on a book I try & persuade him onto another one, not with The Pencil, I enjoyed bedtime story day after day.
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on 9 February 2014
Children love the idea of the items of their pencil case coming to life - even better when one item is naughty ! Lots of discussion - what canthe pencil do about the naughty rubber/eraser ? Like the way the book changes from back and white o colour.
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on 10 January 2014
I bought this book based on the raving reviews for a nearly 3 year old. However, I think this book is definitely for older children, probably closer to 4 or 5. As an adult I didn't find the text very exciting and the book has so many names in it, the story gets a bit confusing. The drawings are just ok, nothing special. If you are looking for a fun story that isn't too wordy and maybe which rhymes, this book isn't for you. The basic outline of the story is of a pencil that draws a dog, cat, parents, grandparents, cousins, a ball etc, but that the various people aren't happy and so it draws a rubber which goes on the rampage rubbing everything out. Maybe it's one that my son will grow into, but at the moment he shows little interest (and so do I).
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