The Red Pencil
The Red Pencil

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Annotation: After her tribal village is attacked by militants, Amira, a young Sudanese girl, must flee to safety at a refugee camp, where she finds hope and the chance to pursue an education in the form of a single red pencil and the friendship and encouragement of a wise elder.
Catalog Number: #108117
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition Date: 2015
Illustrator: Evans, Shane,
Pages: 308 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-316-24782-0 Perma-Bound: 0-605-90125-2
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-316-24782-5 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-90125-4
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2013044753
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
Horn Book
The first part of this vivid verse novel, set from September 2003 to March 2004, celebrates twelve-year-old Amira's life on her family farm in Darfur, Sudan. After a violent attack by the Sudanese militia, Amira and her family become refugees. Pinkney uses onomatopoeia, rhythm, and prismatic imagery to describe Amira's feelings. Evans's spare illustrations provide valuable visual context and a much-needed sense of buoyancy. Glos.
School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 5-7 Set during the early years of the Darfur conflict, this stunning collaboration between Coretta Scott King Award winners Pinkney and Evans tells a moving story of the scarring effects of war but also brings a message of hope and inspiration. Twelve-year-old Amira wishes to attend school, but her mother, "born into a flock of women/locked in a hut of tradition," does not support the girl's aspirations and expects her to only marry and bear children. In contrast, Amira's father praises her talents and gifts her with a special "turning-twelve twig" that she uses to sketch her dreams in the goz (sand). These dreams are brutally shattered when the Janjaweed militants invade and cut a swath of terror through her village. After enduring a heartbreaking loss, Amira and her family must rally their strength in order to make the treacherous journey to the Kalma refugee camp. There, the girl is given a red pencil; this simple gift reveals a world of endless possibilities and imbues the tween with a strong sense of agency. Amira's thoughts and drawings are vividly brought to life through Pinkney's lyrical verse and Evans's lucid line illustrations, which infuse the narrative with emotional intensity. An engaging author note provides background on the political situation in Sudan and explains the powerful motivations for telling this story. An essential purchase that pairs well with Sylvia Whitman's The Milk of Birds (S. &; S., 2013).&12; Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CA
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* As Amira's twelfth birthday approaches, she finds herself distracted from her daily responsibilities on the family farm: doing chores; looking after her little sister, Leila, who was born with special needs; and caring for her little lamb, Nali. She dreams of school, but that is not the traditional way for girls in Sudan. Life is hard, with scarce food, distant water, and the looming obligation of marriage and motherhood. Still, she scratches out her thoughts and dreams in the dirt with a precious twig, wishing. Then the Janjaweed arrive and decimate the village in an attack that kills her father and Nali. After the remaining family members and their friend Old Anwar relocate to a refugee camp, Amira's spirit is sorely tested, but the gift of a pad and a red pencil restores her sense of agency and offers the promise of learning. Pinkney's short, clipped verse expresses the harsh difficulties and intimate beauties of daily life st storms, orange soda, family devotion broken lines that capture Amira's breathless anxiety and hope. And if the evocative poetry is the novel's beating heart, Evans' spare, open, graceful line drawings are its breath, recalling Amira's own linear musings, drawn on the ground or in her own tablet. Ultimately, this is an inspirational story of the harrowing adversity countless children face, the resilience with which they meet it, and the inestimable power of imagination and learning to carry them through.
Voice of Youth Advocates
Not long after Amira turns twelve and happily starts wearing a woman's toob, her world begins to change faster and faster. First, her best friend Halima's family moves from their small village to Nyala, the largest town in Darfur, so Halima can attend school. Amira's family is too poor for her to attend school, however, and she spends her time helping her mother Muma and father Dando, drawing pictures in the dirt, and caring for her sheep, Nali, and her crippled sister Leila. Then come rumors of the Janjaweed and war, and one day Amira's village is attacked and burned, and her beloved Dando is killed. Escaping with her remaining family and aging Anwar, her father's dear friend, to the displaced persons camp at Kalma, Amira is locked in by "sorrow's fence," no longer drawing or talking, until the day the aide, Miss Sabine, brings her a very special red pencil.Sparse, lyrical free verse draws the reader into Amira's world of simple pleasures and joy, tragedy and loss, and ultimately healing and triumph, bringing deep connections to this young girl's spirit and creativity while buffering the atrocities of the Darfur conflict and life in a refugee camp. The Red Pencil provides a valuable perspective on the similarities and differences of another culture and way of life, with opportunities for historical and literary exploration.Kim Carter.Amira lives in a village with her family and throughout this book, readers not only feel every emotion but can visualize what is going on through the poems of this twelve-year-old girl. Whether deaf or blind, everyone has a voice. Amira lost her voice, she could not speak, but she found a way to still be heard. To any teen who feels their voice is not heard, this book proves that people can always find a way to "speak."á Every voice should be heard and readers will hear this little girl. There is always a way to express yourself and that is what our generation is about. 4Q, 4P.Teania Moore-Case, Teen Reviewer.
Word Count: 21,920
Reading Level: 4.2
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.2 / points: 3.0 / quiz: 168792 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.5 / points:7.0 / quiz:Q64435
Lexile: HL620L
Guided Reading Level: Y
Fountas & Pinnell: Y

The powerful story of one girl's triumphant journey, inspired by true tales of life in Sudan -- now in paperback.
Life in Amira's peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when Janjaweed attackers arrive, unleashing unspeakable horrors. After losing nearly everything, Amira needs to find the strength to make the long journey on foot to safety at a refugee camp. She begins to lose hope, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mind -- and all kinds of possibilities.

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