The Silver Pencil

by Alice Dalgliesh

Paperback, 1991



Local notes

PB Dal




Puffin (1991), 235 pages


Janet uses the special pencil she received from her father to turn her life into stories.


Newbery Medal (Honor Book — 1945)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

235 p.; 5 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member Cheryl_in_CC_NV
Newbery *honor* not winner. ?Š

I'm not sure why this was on my list. ?áThe community reviews on GR?ádon't even describe it accurately.

Quite old-fashioned. ?áTakes place in the decade surrounding The Great War and reads as if it was written then. ?áReads even more like a memoir than the
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author admits in her note. ?áReads like a very condensed and sad version of the Betsy books by [author:Maud Hart Lovelace|5306] - rushes through childhood in Trinidad, adolescence in England, and a slew of teacher training and internships and colleges, Boston and Canada and New York - I couldn't figure out all the places and times by the end there. The 'silver pencil' turns out to be a mechanical pencil - apparently they were default silver and quite the nifty thing a century ago. There are lots of obscure references like this. ?áHave you ever heard of Paderewski? I don't particularly like Janet. ?áShe's pathologically insecure & timid as a teacher, and takes forever to realize that she should be writing, even though everyone from her father on has been saying all along that she has a gift for telling stories. ?áOf course, she's not a bad teacher, either - just too unsure of herself. ?á Sexism, classism, and especially racism are factors. ?áNegroes" and "colored people" and Italians, Jews, East Indians abound. ?áThe author takes great pains to make sure we see Janet as liberal and enlightened - she's always respectful and kind. ?áBut she's white and from a privileged background, so she comes across as almost pious, almost goody-two-shoes. ?á It's also interesting that the character is named Janet Laidlaw, and it's claimed in the text that her grandfather, William Laidlaw, wrote a poem called "Lucy's Flittin'." ?áWell, accd. to Wikipedia, there was indeed a real poet who wrote that real poem. ?áSo, Janet = Alice, and Dalgliesh is her married name? In any case, I think the Newbery committee liked this because 1. Janet loved Trinidad, England, and Canada, but ultimately decided to make the USA her home and become a citizen and 2. the reader gets a decent dose of historical fiction, and, perhaps, 3. the white girl is quite Progressive, for the time, refusing, for example, to call the Italians 'Wops' and respecting the concerns of a Jewish family for their son's appearance in a Christmas play."
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LibraryThing member electrascaife
Janet, an English girl growing up in Trinidad, loves to write stories and receives the eponymous writing instrument from her father as a Christmas present. Then he dies unexpectedly, and Janet and her mother set off for England for her schooling, then for America; eventually she ends up in Canada,
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all the while writing her life into stories along the way.
Meh. Even as I write up this summary I think it sounds like a book I would love. But, reader, I didn't. Nothing in it caught my interest and I was restless-reading through the whole thing. *shrug*
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½ (26 ratings; 3.7)
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