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The Red Pencil

The Red Pencil

By Andrea Davis Pinkney

Illustrated by Shane E. Evans

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Social Studies: Europe/Asia/Africa, Personal Development: Self-Discovery, Songs/Poetry/Nursery Rhymes: School

Grades: 4-7

Educator Guide | Listen to author interview

“Amira, look at me,” Muma insists.

She collects both my hands in hers.

“The Janjaweed attack without warning.

If ever they come — run.”

Finally, Amira is twelve. Old enough to wear a toob, old enough for new responsibilities. And maybe old enough to go to school in NyalaAmira’s one true dream.

But life in her peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when the Janjaweed arrive. The terrifying attackers ravage the town and unleash unspeakable horrors. After she loses nearly everything, Amira needs to dig deep within herself to find the strength to make the long journey on foot to safety at a refugee camp. Her days are tough at the camp, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mindand all kinds of possibilities.

New York Times bestselling and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney’s powerful verse and Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist Shane W. Evans’s breathtaking illustrations combine to tell an inspiring tale of one girl’s triumph against all odds.


Winner of the 2015 Children’s Africana Book Award

A 2015 ALSC Notable Children’s Book

New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2014

Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book of 2014

School Library Journal Best Book of 2014

★ “Pinkney’s short, clipped verse expresses the harsh difficulties and intimate beauties of daily life—dust storms, orange soda, family devotion—in 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.” — Booklist, starred review

★ “Telling her story in first-person verse, Pinkney uses deft strokes to create engaging characters through the poetry of their observations and the poignancy of their circumstances. This tale of displacement in a complex, war-torn country is both accessible and fluent, striking just the right tone for middle-grade readers. Evans’ elemental drawings illuminate the spirit and yearnings of Amira, the earnest protagonist. A soulful story that captures the magic of possibility, even in difficult times.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

★ “[P]otent… Pinkney faces war’s horrors head on, yet also conveys a sense of hope and promise.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

★ “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…  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.” — School Library Journal, starred review