Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

The Red Pencil

Evans, Shane W. (Illustrator)
Little, Brown 2014. 326 pages
First published: 2014
ISBN: 9780316247801 (hardcover)
9780316247825 (paperback)
9780316247818 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Novel
Book genre: Realistic

Text Elements:

character, characterization, conflict, point of view, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Set against the early days of the Darfur Genocide, spare, poignant verse recounts a turbulent 10 months in the life of 12-year-old Amira. Readers experience Amira’s loving, rural home life with family and friends and glimpse her rich culture. Abruptly, peace is shattered when Janjaweed militia burn their homes “to blackened bits of thatch.” Amira, her now-widowed mother, sister and friends flee to the harsh despair of a refugee camp. Only when an aid worker gives Amira a red pencil and a notepad does she begin to heal, to hope and to dream again of attending school.

Told from Amira’s first-person limited-omniscient point of view, the reader experiences her overwhelming desire for an education (“When it comes to schooling, my mother is the most tight-minded of anyone”) and her heartbreaking anguish: “How? Is? This? Happening? Hooves. Hard Pounding. Bullets spraying into crowds. Screams. So many screams.”

Lightly drawn, spare pencil illustrations tenderly and honestly portray Amira’s world, add touching depth and underscore the book’s themes. Simple images—sparrows, to which Amira’s father compares her, a drawing twig, a bottle of Orange Fanta, a red pencil—become symbols of hope, freedom, endurance and friendship.

The author beautifully imparts the truth of the devastation and tenderly reveals the horrors of war to readers. An author’s note offers valuable information on Darfur and Sudan and on education for girls.

  •  

    The story is told from the point of view of a 12-year-old narrator who is sharing her experience with civil and military unrest in Darfur. Read the opening and discuss Amira's voice and how she is initially characterized.

  •  

    In reading groups, explore the novel's big ideas such as the impact of war on young people, gender issues, education for girls, human migration and refugees or any other relevant issue. Use evidence from the text to support ideas.

  •  

    Following reading and discussion, research instances of war and genocide in the world. Collect information and make connections to the novel. Share your findings in a multimodal presentation or written report.

  •  

    Research the war and genocide in Darfur in the early 21st century. In groups, discuss what you think the international community could have done to prevent the conflict or to help the people of Sudan when it occurred.

  •  

    While you read, pay attention to the scattered sketches and consider how they tie in to the story. Notice the layout of the free verse poetry and think about why the author wrote it like that.

  •  

    Write a free verse poem describing your appreciation for the book (or lack thereof), including mention of your favourite (or least-liked) parts.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use information
  • To use information and communications technologies
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Ethics and Religious Culture
  • Geography, History and Citizenship
  • Social Sciences
  • Visual Arts