The Red Pencil

by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Other authorsShane W. Evans (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 2015





Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2015), Edition: Reprint, 368 pages


"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"--

User reviews

LibraryThing member RaineyNicole
This is a great book for upper level. Middle school-junior high. This is about a young girl who's dreams are shaken when she has to move to a refugee camp with her family. She feels hopeless until the gift of a red pencil is given to her. This is a great book to show that with positivity and an open mind we can overcome all obstacles put in our way no matter how tough. Great illustrations!… (more)
LibraryThing member peyrobs
This is a great book for upper level. This book is about a girl who, doesnt want too but has to, move to a refugee camp with her family. She feels lonely and is upset until she is given a red pencil. Then the story has an positive turn.
LibraryThing member Sullywriter
Twelve-year-old Amira's dream of attending school is shattered when the Janjaweed attack and destroy her village in Darfur. Amira and her surviving family rally to make a treacherous journey to the Kalma refugee camp, where she is given a red pencil which becomes an instrument of empowerment and inspiration, and a symbol of hope. A powerful, poignant, ultimately hopeful story with complementary illustrations by Shane Evans. In an informative author note, Pinkney provides historical context and explains the complex political situation in Sudan.… (more)
LibraryThing member Dipodomy
The story of a twelve year old girl's struggle for education during the genocide in Sudan. Told through a series of poems narrated by the main character, the story weaves together themes of birth & death, conflict, loss, friendship, family, community, and tradition as they appear throughout her life. A powerful and moving book that handles its delicate subject matter with beauty and respect.… (more)
LibraryThing member sweetiegherkin
Twelve-year-old Amira narrates what life is like on her family's farm -- hard work but also great love between the family members. But when militia attack her village, Amira's life is never again the same. Moving to a refugee camp with her family is incredibly difficult, but Amira starts to find hope once again...

This was a wonderfully done story, written in prose verse with gray-scale illustrations. The 'novel in verse' format doesn't always work out great, but here it is fantastic. I felt like I really got a sense of Amira's voice and personality, as well as a story that was compelling me to read on. The illustrations are lively and feel like they could be Amira's creative expressions.

I also appreciated that while the story doesn't shy away from difficult topics (e.g., war, death, even child marriages), it doesn't laser in on those with gratuitous horror. The focus is always on hope and the possibility of what's next. The idea that education can help change the world leaves for a cautiously optimistic ending.

Backmatter includes a note from the author explaining some of her inspiration and meticulous research; a glossary of Arabic words and one of English terms that might be new to young readers; and a pronunciation guide.

The only reason I don't give this book a full 5 stars is one thing did not sit right with me. Amira's younger sister Leila is born with some physical maladies and while it's lovely that the family says they embrace her and love her no matter what, Amira is constantly referring to her as 'bent,' 'broken,' 'crooked,' etc. I wasn't a fan of that.

Still, I highly recommend this beautifully told tale overall and will leave you with my favorite poem from it:

To craft letters.
To see reading's beauty.
To write English.
To recite the Koran, our holy book.
To know reading's music.

To me, these are wondrous treasures.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Sgill17
This is a book about Amira, a young girl, living in Sudan when her village is attacked and many die, including her father. Amira, her mother, and sister travel to live in a refugee camp with the few people left from her village. Life in the refugee camp is mundane, unpleasant, and a daily struggle. Yet, Amira learns to push forward and attempt to prevail over her circumstances. It starts with a red pencil that she is given. She uses the red pencil to learn how to read and write, and ultimately decides she wants to get out of the refugee camp and get an education.… (more)


Original language


Physical description

368 p.; 5.25 inches




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