Monday, March 2, 2015

It's Monday--Here's What I'm Reading!

This month, I have committed to writing every day through the community at Two Writing Teachers. All are welcome to the March Slice of Life Challenge! It's not too late to join in or comment or just read... Many of my posts will be at my personal blog, Just Write, Melanie, but the posts that relate explicitly to learning will be on both blogs. 

Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

This morning, I have the perfect book to combine my Monday reading and daily writing worlds. On Saturday, I spent the day at a field hockey tournament, grateful for the pockets of time in between games so that I could read an incredible book.

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Shane Evans was left on my desk with a note:

When I get this sort of note, I read the book! If I could put this book on every reader of this post's desk, I would. It's that good. The Red Pencil is written in verse and the beauty of the images, the figurative language, and the play with fonts and spacing render the gruesome story and the horrific events readable and incredibly compelling. Set in Sudan, Amira lives in a tribal village with her parents and her sister until the Janjaweed militia attack the village, killing people and animals, and destroying homes. Andrea Davis Pinkney included an incredible author's note, explaining the reality of the situation with facts and details, her research process, and her hopes for the future. 

This is a book that will inspire writers with the powerful verses that weave the story. I am including just a fragment of the chapter, Waking the Moon:

When the moon winks,
 then waves good-bye,
 it is a bad sign.

A hiding moon is a curse.

It means
the worst
luck is sure to fall.

If a curtain of clouds 
on a swelling moon's smile,
we have reason to frown.

This fragment is only a tiny sampling of the beautiful language throughout this book. The Red Pencil will also inspire artists because Shane Evans uses seemingly simple, but deceptively complex, pictures to show so much emotion. Most importantly, this story will inspire empathy, as it tells of unthinkable events with hope, compassion, and beauty. Upper elementary students will ask questions and search for answers about lives that are so very different from the ones they live. 

Happy reading and slicing!


  1. I thought The Red Pencil was a beautiful book, too! It ranks up there as one of my favorite novels in verse. I was lucky enough to meet Andrea Davis Pinkney and get the ARC of this book at the ALA conference last summer! Great review. :-)

  2. Thanks, Melanie. I am going to order it right now. I have really grown to love books written in verse. I just finished The Crossover and there's something Kwame Alexander did in the book that I want to try sometime this month in a slice. I love that you can take a small piece of amazing writing and try to mimic it. I find that much more difficult to do with a novel.

  3. Oh this is marvelous Melanie. I'm so glad I stopped by. My new obsession is novel or story in verse. I had heard of The Red Pencil but didn't know anything about it. Thank you!

  4. I have been hearing such good things about The Red Pencil. It is definitely one I want to read.

  5. I adored this book - we will be reading it as a selection for historical fiction book clubs soon, and I can't wait to hear the discussions and insights my kinds will be sure to have.

  6. Thanks for the post Melanie. I am always on the lookout for new books to add to my shelves. The beautiful language of The Red Pencil will certainly be added to one of my classroom shelves. I look forward to future posts.

  7. I have heard so many great things about this book, and my reading has been "kidnapped" by novels in verse lately. I think I need to check this one out.

  8. Thanks for this wonderful review! I have the book sitting on my shelf but haven't gotten to it yet. Now I must move it up in the pile!

  9. So happy you liked it! Can't wait to read it aloud to my SS classes!!!

  10. Wow! This sounds like such a powerful story. Thank you so much for telling us about it.

  11. Wow! This sounds like such a powerful story. Thank you so much for telling us about it.

  12. I agree, Melanie. This is a beautifully written, powerful book. It's books like this that really make me miss having a class to read to!

  13. I've just got The Red Pencil from the Library. After reading this, I can't wait to get to it!