What does a pencil dream about when you’re not using it? Follow a pencil’s adventures as it travels outside the classroom and writes its own story.
In this Chinese import, a green pencil stuck in a desk drawer at an elementary school dreams about having adventures that will take it far away, to a place where no one will know who (or what) it is. The pencil fantasizes about standing in a meadow, watering its “top” such that it sprouts leaves and even a flower; the butterflies and bear who enjoy the flower don’t recognize the cleverly disguised pencil. Next, the pencil dreams about making itself a leafy umbrella for fish to hide beneath and a frog to sit upon. The pencil then considers pretending to be vegetables, like peas and even a zucchini. It imagines itself as a raft, a paddle, and sporting equipment. Finally, the pencil dreams of making its way back into the classroom so that (child) readers can use it to write down their own dreams and fantasies. Narrated in the first person and addressing readers directly, Zhang’s narrative is cheerful, and his partial use of rhyming words suits this nicely to reading aloud, although the plot itself is not particularly original. Cao’s bright and clever illustrations seamlessly connect the narrative, building upon the frames that have come before and carrying the story forward. Occasional details delight: The pencil acts as crossing guard for a line of ants bearing tomatoes on their backs. A cute but not entirely satisfying meditation.